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Tips for photographing fireworks

December 30, 2018

Tips for photographing fireworks

It’s almost New Year’s Eve. Are you heading out to see the fireworks and want to capture stunning photographs? Photographing fireworks can be a very rewarding experience or very disappointing.

Here are our 10 tips for capturing brilliant images of fireworks:

1 – Position, position, position

Location is the key. Areas can get very busy especially at times like New Year Eve and it’s not unheard of to hear of photographers ‘camping’ on a site for a day before the event to secure a prime sought-after position. A rule of thumb is higher is generally be better.

fireworks at showgroundImage courtesy Danielle Lancaster

2 – Use a tripod or maybe not?

The tripod head needs to be able to support your camera and the heaviest lens you have in a vertical position. If you forget your tripod, relax and try some hand holding abstract images. This could be drawing with the camera, shapes and letters, zooming in and out during an exposure, the options are endless and can create some bizarre one-of-a-kind images.

Photographers wating for the firworks in Brisbane

Waiting for fireworks in Brisbane

 Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster

If your lens/camera has IS or VR turn it off when the camera is on a tripod. And don’t forget to turn it back on when you are finished.

3 – Use a cable release or remote control

We want to avoid any form of camera shake and control the shutter opening time to the firework burst for the optimum image.

4 – Composition does matter

Think about what you want to portray in the scene and take the time to look around your image area and ask yourself, do you really need it? Don’t let unnecessary items clutter your image!

1Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster

5 – Which Lens?

Choosing which lens can be difficult.
Each lens has negatives and positives. With a wide angle you can include other points of interest like a landscape or cityscape in your image. An object that is recognisable such as a statue or monument can really look awesome.

With a zoom, you can capture one burst standing solitary in the sky and eliminate other objects that could become distracting like bright lights or even worse the backs of people’s heads.

IMG_5319_webImage courtesy Danielle Lancaster

6 – Know the wind direction

It is preferable to get upwind as then the smoke from the fireworks will blow away from you. A still night can be as bad as those when the wind is blowing towards you, as the smoke lingers longer in the air and is notably worse after multiple bursts. You can always edit afterwards but it can also be a lot of work.

Image courtesy Danielle Lancaster

7 – Focusing

Look for an area of contrast and pre-focus. Then turn auto focus off, otherwise your lens will hunt for a point of focus and remember to turn it on after you have finished.

8– Exposure = ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed

It’s often the hardest part so here is the recipe:
Shoot in Manual Mode
Choose a low ISO for example Canon 100 and Nikon 200.
Shutter: Bulb
Aperture: Start at f/8 – 16
Be willing to exposure compensate using your aperture to get the correct exposure.

What you don’t want is an image like this!wrong

9 – Shoot horizontal and vertical

Variety is the spice of life!

10 – Experiment and have fun!

Most importantly keep your photography fun and if you have managed to do all the above whilst juggling a glass of bubbly in one hand for the midnight show, well done!

All the very best for 2019!

Red, green and yellow fireworks at the Cairns show in north QueenslandImage courtesy Danielle Lancaster




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