4th of July is one of my favorite holidays.
I love the sound of the kids playing in the water, the smell of the grill sizzling away, and the excitement from the fireworks exploding in their beautiful cascade of colors.
If you ask me, it’s one of the most exciting holidays to photograph. The entire day, or weekend, brings fun opportunities to capture the memories that my kids, husband, and I will continually reflect on. When it comes to photographing the fireworks themselves, you need to be prepared.
With a few extra tools and tips you can create some jaw dropping images of your firework celebration this weekend!
1. Bring your tripod
When photographing fireworks, you’re working with an extremely slow shutter speed so to avoid camera shake and ensure you get a crisp, clear photo, you need to use a tripod. If it’s a particularly windy day, use sandbags or your heavy camera bag to help weigh the tripod down and hold it steady.
2. You need a remote
When you are using a slow shutter speed like you will with fireworks, anytime you touch the camera you are risking camera shake in your photo. Instead of pressing the shutter button on the camera, use a remote. I have the Canon TC-80N3 remote. If that remote is out of your budget and you’re a Canon shooter like myself, the Canon RC-6 remote is a great option.
3. The smaller the aperture the better
Everyone loves a wide open aperture but that isn’t always the wisest choice. If you were shooting fireworks at f/1.4 your plane of focus would be very narrow but fireworks are big and full and need a larger plane of focus. Using a smaller aperture, around f/8 – f/22 will allow you to get the entire firework in focus.
4. Focusing in the dark
Speaking of aperture and focus, forget using auto-focus with fireworks. Because you are often pressing the shutter before the fireworks have exploded and it’s really, really dark, your lens won’t be able to focus. Instead, switch your lens to manual focus and set it to infinity and leave it there. Easy peasy.
5. Use a low ISO
Fireworks are full of vibrant color and in order to capture that as genuinely as possible, you want to use the lowest ISO possible. A low ISO will keep your colors rich and also reduce the noise in your image. Using a higher ISO will increase the amount of noise which can detract from the fireworks so avoiding that as much as possible is best.
6. Slow shutter speed
With fireworks, if your shutter speed is too fast you won’t capture the entire explosion. However, leaving your shutter open for longer than usual will allow you to photograph the full firework. A safe shutter speed is about 2-9 seconds. Fireworks are bright so remember that if you leave the shutter open for too long you will overexposure the image. When metering, you’re going to have to do a little guess work.
Rather than pre-determining your shutter speed, you can also take your camera off of manual mode and put it in bulb mode. By putting your camera in bulb mode, your shutter will stay open for as long as you have the shutter button depressed. By choosing this method, a remote is a must to keep your camera from moving and capturing any motion blur.
7. Find an interesting perspective
With your settings lined up, you now have the creative choice to compose as you wish. You can shoot just the fireworks in the sky or you can leave objects in the foreground for context. Lenses are another way to change your perspective. Using a telephoto or wide lens is neither right or wrong but is completely dependent on how you wish to compose, if you want to include surroundings, and how far you are from the fireworks. Keep an open mind, experiment, and see what you like.