How To Photograph Fireworks

Fireworks in dark sky

Do you know how to photograph fireworks? Taking photos of fireworks requires you to use your camera in manual mode. It is a great way to put your photography skills into practice.

While many firework displays have been cancelled in 2020, there are still some events hoping to go ahead. Willows Farm have a quiet firework display on the 6th November (now sold out). St Albans Cathedral are crowdfunding for a display on the 7th November, find out more details here.

Fireworks photographed in dark sky

How To Photograph Fireworks

Things You Will Need

A sturdy tripod is essential when taking photos of fireworks with your camera. With long exposure images even a small amount of movement will ruin your image. Ideally, you will also have a remote release cable. These can be picked up for a few pounds and mean you can take a photo without touching (& moving) your camera. This is the kind of thing you need (remember to check compatibility with your camera model before your order):

As a back up plan if you’ve not got a remote release, most cameras can be set to take a delayed photo. This means any camera motion from you pressing the shutter has stopped before the photo takes. It can be tricky to time taking a photo at the correct moment when taking photos this way, so I’d recommend picking up a remote release if you can. If you have a choice of lens, you probably want to use a wide angle zoom. Until the display gets started you don’t always know where the fireworks are going to be. If you start with a wide angle zoom set at its widest focal length, you can then zoom in to get the composition you want, or if necessary crop your photos afterwards.

Common compositions for fireworks include shooting wide, so you capture the crowd and the wider scene. An alternative is to crop tightly around the fireworks once you know where they are going to be. You may also want to pack a head torch or use the torch on your phone. This is so that you can see what you are doing when you are adjusting your camera in the dark.

Getting Set Up

When setting your camera up for fireworks, you may find it easier to dial in your settings before you head out in the dark. You need to select manual mode. As a starting point set ISO to 200, aperture to f11 and shutter speed to 2 seconds. You are looking for photos where the sky is dark, and fireworks aren’t overexposed. You can adjust the settings based as needed when you get to the firework display. It is important to think about where you want to stand. The distance you want to be from the fireworks will vary depending on the display, your lens and what you want to include in the image. Be careful to pick somewhere that doesn’t have obstructions such as power cables in the way of your photo.

Taking The Photo

Having set your exposure in advance and then tweaked as necessary, the remaining challenge is how to focus your camera. The simplest way to do this is to set your lens to manual focus. You can then focus your lens to infinity (this should be marked on your lens). You are most likely going to be far enough away from the fireworks that you can set the focus to infinity and just leave it there. It is easy to underexpose or overexpose firework photos. You probably want to take a couple of photos before checking them, if needed you can quickly adjust your settings before the display finishes. If your fireworks look too bright try altering your settings to achieve a darker sky and crisper fireworks. It’s probably worth adjusting your shutter speed to start with (remember you want to shorten your shutter speed to let less light in and reduce the exposure) until you get the look you want.

More Advanced Techniques

Once you’ve mastered the basics of how to photograph fireworks, you can then move onto capturing a series of fireworks in a single image. For this you need to keep your shutter open for a long time. If your camera has a bulb option now is a good time to use it. To take photos of multiple fireworks in a single image you keep a piece of black card over the lens between fireworks. This prevents too much light entering the camera and overexposing the image. Every time there is a firework you want to capture move the card away from the lens, before replacing it a couple of seconds later. Your shutter may be open for 20 or 30 seconds, but the camera is only capturing the fireworks when you remove the card from the lens.

Editing The Photos

Ideally you will now have some great photos straight out of the camera. And most likely there will be some you are ready to discard. Make sure you take a moment to understand why they didn’t work before you press delete. You may find that some small editing tweaks can help to improve your photos. You can experiment with the composition. Experiment with seeing whether cutting out any unused space draws attention to the fireworks, perhaps leaving it in providers a sense of place. You may want to experiment with making the sky darker (try increasing the contrast), or making the fireworks more vivid (try increasing the vibrance).

Berkhamsted Fireworks

Do you know of any Berkhamsted fireworks displays taking place in 2020? If so please let us know where. Berkhamsted Rotary @ Berkhamsted Cricket Club Tring Festival of Fire @ Tring Park Cricket Club (not taking place in 2020) Chipperfield Common (not taking place in 2020)

Photography Lessons Berkhamsted

Want to learn more about how to use your camera? Visit our website to learn more about our photography courses for beginners in Berkhamsted.

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