Tips for taking Photos of Fireworks

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Fireworks Over A Castle in Switzerland

With the 4th of July just around the corner its a good time to prepare for your weekend BBQ.  It’s also a great time to read up on how to take some stellar photos of fireworks.  If you are looking for some tips on how to ge the best pictures during the holiday you’ve come the right place.

What You’ll Need

To get started you’ll need some basic gear.  Here is my list of go to items:

  1. Camera (preferably a DSLR)
  2. Cable release
  3. Tripod
  4. A black card about 4 inches by 6 inches (Optional to block light)

Camera Settings

Set your camera in manual mode.  I usally have my ISO set to 400 to start.  My apperature will start at f11. Finally I’ll start with a shutter speed of about 4 seconds.

When the first fireworks start, take a test shot and take a quick glance at the result to see how you are making out.  If you feel like the highlights are bit too blown up, consider decreasing the shutter speed by a second or so.  As the evening goes on adjust the shutter as needed to get the best result.

Alot of captureing fireworks is about the timing.  With the cable release you can watch and listen and you’ll know the best time to click the shutter.  In wide shots I like to click the shutter just as the shell is exploding in the air.  By timing for the explosion you get a nice cascading effect.

Trick for Exposing the Foreground

If you like to shoot wide angle shots that include some of the foreground you may find that depending where you are the 4 second exposure may not be enough to capture foreground detail.  This is were the black card comes in play.

Using my base settings of f11 and ISO 400, I will explore which exposure time gives an acceptable level of detail for the foreground.  Lets say its 10 seconds.  So you need 4 seconds for the fireworks, and 10 seconds for the foreground.  In this example I’ll set the shutter speed to 10 seconds.  I’ll time the shutter release to capture the firework explode while at the same time counting to 4.  When I get to 4 seconds, I’ll slide the black card in front of the lens to block out the sky and continue exposing the lower half of the frame.

Remember if you try this keep the black card moving ever so slightly up and down so you don’t get a hard edge in the image.  Any one who has worked in a dark room will know what I am talking about.

Good luck!



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