How to Photograph Fireworks
Just one day left until we welcome 2016 and lighten up the skies wherever we are! As I'm one of those who celebrates the New Year with an Intervalometer in the one hand and a lighter in the other one I wanted to give you a little recipe for capturing the beautiful firework night skies!
1. Use a tripod
The most essential piece of gear is by far a tripod! Without getting your camera into a stable position you won't be able to get the result you were hoping for. Due to the longer exposures everything will be blurred out and the image will totally lose its magical atmosphere. Therefore get yourself a tripod if you haven't done so yet.
2. Framing the shot
Another important fact in firework photography is framing. This is really the most difficult part which eventually makes your shot either top or a flop.
However the "bad" thing about fireworks is that they're shot into the sky and you never know exactly where they're going to explode. Therefore anticipation is the key word. The best thing you can do is to be as early as possible at the location in order to get to know your surrounding. This will help you to keep your eyes on the firework show and not having to struggle with your position. This directly leads us to the next point...
3. Focal length
By scouting for your right location there is also the question of the right focal length which comes along with that. If you're standing right in front of the show you'd certainly do wrong with sticking your tele zoom lens on your camera. For situations like these I mainly use the Canon 16-35 mm f/4.0. This crystal clear wide angle lens allows you to capture the fireworks in all its entirety. As you never know exactly where your fireworks will end up in the sky the use of a wide angle lens makes it much easier to get the right composition.
However there are also situations like the one above in which you're standing at the other side of a lake or it is just not possible to get any closer to the firework. Then it wouldn't be too bad to zoom in. This is just depending on your chosen location.
4. The Intervalometer
When I shoot fireworks I always carry an intervalometer with me. There is nothing worse than ruining all your stable set up by hitting the shutter button. But if you haven't got one of those you don't necessarily have to run into the next photography shop. There is still the other option of getting your steady shots by using the built in self timer of your camera.
The timing of your shot is also one of the most difficult but at the same time also one of the most important parts. When you're using an intervalometer then you've got the advantage of timing every shot separately. I always try to lock the shutter before the fireworks are being shot into the sky in order to include their trains.
If you're stuck to your self timer it's a bit more complicated but with a little bit of practice still possible. You just have to anticipate the firework well enough to know when they're leaving the ground.
6. Shutter Speed
Note: The best way to photograph fireworks is in manual mode
Hand in hand with the timing of your shots there always goes your shutter speed. As fireworks are always moving it is important to go for longer exposures. If you have an intervalometer I'd always prefer to shoot in bulb mode. This gives you the possibility to keep the shutter open as long as you want it to. As fireworks are always quite different in their brightness you just have to experiment with your shutter speed (as a rough guide I'd suggest a shutter speed of about 5 to 10 seconds) . If you keep it open too long your photo will be overexposed and you'll lose every detail.
The good thing about photographing fireworks is that you don't really need a high end level lens which is fast as hell. Fireworks are generally bright enough that you can use an aperture around 8-16 to get the best image quality. I personally set my aperture always to f/10 and adjust it a tiny bit during the firework show. This actually gives me the best result no matter which colour is being shot.
The problem about fireworks is again that you don't know what will come next. As for that I rather go for an average aperture than ending up struggling around with the settings and missing all the good shots.
This is probably the easiest part of my recipe. Simply set it to 100 and you're ready to go! This will get you as less noise as possible.
This is it - my recipe for photographing fireworks! I hope I could help you with that and give you some tips for better results. A general tip I can give you is also to get as many shots as possible. You can always sort out the bad ones later on!
Hope you guys have an awesome 2016! Follow your dreams and never give up ;)
Feel free to post your favourite shots on my facebook page :)
Check out 500px's list about the most beautiful firework displays from around the world.