Guide to taking great photos of fireworks
Tips & tricks for capturing celebrations
No matter if New Year, a national holiday or Summer party – colourful firework displays are always a winner. It’s a shame that it’s over so quickly. It doesn’t take much though to capture this moment in photos forever.
Basically: to photograph fireworks in a dark setting (as is usually the case), you need longer exposure times and therefore a stable surface without any vibrations for your camera, ideally a tripod. Alternatively, any section of a wall is enough too - if in doubt, improvise.
Not everyone wants to drag their expensive photography equipment to the party – fireworks can be captured with a smartphone camera just as well. Clip-On Smartphone Lenses can be very helpful for this. Wide angle or fishe-eye lenses are common, cheap and help widen the perspective. A stable surface is just as important here and there is an extra benefit: little smartphone tripods are very small and even fit in your jacket pocket.
The three most important requirements for photographing fireworks.
An SLR camera with zoom lens in mid-focal length range or a compact camera with the option of manually setting the aperture, time and ISO is helpful. Make sure to switch off the autofocus. A stable tripod is also important.
These Three things are essential:
- The photo’s layout and composition
- The right focus
A photography guide
Start by selecting a suitable location. You should avoid crowds of people as there’s the risk that someone will walk in front of the lens at the crucial moment.
Very bright light sources in the direct vicinity and frame should also be avoided if possible.
- Fireworks are unpredictable, so choose a large frame to really capture everything.
- Now put the camera on the tripod
- Set the camera to manual mode, indicated by “M”.
- Choose as small an aperture as possible (big aperture number 8 or 11).
- Set the exposure time to 2 seconds (with the “Bulb” setting the camera is exposes for as long as you keep the shutter open by pressing the shutter release).
- A low ISO prevents image noise (ISO 100- 200).
- If there are things near the firework display that you can focus on make sure to use this opportunity.
- If not, wait for the first rocket and focus on that.
- It’s important to deactivate the autofocus straight after focusing.
Taking pictures with a Smartphone
Look for a good spot – outside big crowds if possible and stabilize your phone
The surroundings should be as dark as possible, to really make the fireworks shine – don’t use a flash. If you’re using an extra lense: attach it to your phone and make sure it’s in the right position. This can help to catch more scenery on camera.
Don’t zoom in. This would minimize your image section. Smartphones only have digital zooms that cause an immense loss of quality.
Take HDR Images – The smartphone camera takes several pictures and layers them together to get the best result. This intensifies the contrast between the dark sky and the brigt fireworks.
There are smartphones with manual camera settings available. If you are using one, set:
- the manual focus into the distance
- the ISO to 100 - 200
- a middle exposure (some cameras have a slider with a sun or a torch symbol in camera settings)
Take some pictures to test the settings, make adjustments if needed.
If your smartphone doesn’t have manual camera settings, you can look for a firework or night mode and use that.
Use the serial shot mode to limit wobbling and get the perfect moment
When and how much should you photograph?
The best time to press the shutter release is just before the rocket explodes. And you should keep your finger on the shutter release, too. Taking many photos quickly increases your chances of capturing the perfect shot when the sparks fly. You can look through your pictures later to choose the best ones.
A little tip:
You can get interesting, surrealistic photos if you follow the rocket with your lens (“panning”).