The great American holiday of The Fourth of July is next week. At the local fireworks show, you will see people taking photos with what they have including flip phones, smart phones, iPADs and point and shoot cameras(turn off the flash). A few photographers will have cameras set on tripods and will look seriously ready for the show to begin. Others will be fumbling with the tripod, fumbling with camera settings and moving around to find the best place to stand. A few might embarrassingly trip in the dark. I know how easy that is to do
This is a short tutorial how-to on taking photos of fireworks displays at night. If you have a camera with manual settings you will do much better than using settings such as “P” or automatic program which lets the camera choose what to do. Bright light against a dark background will often confuse the camera’s control and you will not get the photos you want. This tutorial on taking photographs of fireworks tells the methods and camera settings which worked for me last year. Other photographers will use different settings that add up to about the same overall exposure.
First, use manual on the camera. This means you set the shutter speed and set the aperture (lens opening also called “f stop”) and go with that for most of the photos. You definitely need a tripod or very sturdy support.
If your camera has a “bulb” or “manual shutter” setting, use that. What this does is allow you to open and close the shutter when you decide enough time has passed. The camera must be very, very steady for this procedure. With more advanced cameras, there will be a means for using a remote switch for opening and closing the shutter, making it much easier to do without concern that you will shake the camera. If you do not have bulb or manual shutter controls, then set the camera to manual using one of the settings shown with the photos in this fireworks tutorial. Go easy when you push the shutter and you should get good photographs of the fiery display.
Here are the photographs from July 4, 2011. The information is in the caption to each photo. Note how more or less of the tail and blast of the firework device shows in the shot, depending on the shutter time. Since I had a remote shutter control, the times were what I wanted right then and I did play with the time somewhat. I suggest without a remote shutter control that you pick a shutter time from the sort of photo you like from that shown.
Camera Settings: These settings were used for all the fireworks photographs shown. The only setting changed was shutter speed. See shutter speed with each photo caption.
- ISO(considered digital film speed): ISO 100
- F Stop, the lens aperture: f/9
- If your camera does not go down to ISO 100, you may try a tighter aperture, maybe close to f/16 with ISO 200. Experiment with the situation to find what is working for you.
This is a relatively long exposure with a shutter speed of 3.6 seconds.
You will notice how the smoke shows in the light and some of the
local terrain is lit enough to barely show up.
AS with all the photographs of fireworks display, the ISO was 100
and the f stop was f/9.
Shutter exposure time: 1.6 seconds
Fireworks Shutter exposure time: 1.4 seconds
Fireworks Shutter exposure time: 1.2 seconds
Fireworks Shutter exposure time: 1.0 seconds
Fireworks Shutter exposure time: 0.8 seconds
You will easily see how the relatively short shutter speed of 0.8 seconds(above) does not show the tail of fire from the fireworks shell prior to the blast of color. I will likely be using a shutter opening time of 1 second to 1.5 seconds on the night of July 4 to take fireworks photos. Try what you like and experiment during the show! Best results wished for you with your photos of July 4 fireworks displays.