8 min. to read
There's nothing quite like a dazzling, colorful fireworks display. Not surprisingly, fireworks are also a favorite subject of photographers everywhere. What you may be surprised to learn, though, is that they aren't as difficult to capture with your camera as you might think. Let's go over some of the basics to get you on the right track to creating beautiful fireworks photos.
There are several unique challenges involved in shooting fireworks and that's part of the fun. Understanding them and compensating for them ahead of time is the best way to ensure successful photos. Here's a short list:
There are, of course, many variables that can add to these problems, such as the weather, but these are the most prevalent.
With the list above and other variables in mind, here's a basic, step-by-step procedure for taking photos of fireworks:
You'll want to choose your location early. Find a spot where you can take in the entire show. Take a good look at the scene and consider how much you want to include. A city skyline can add a lot to your photos. If the display is taking place over water, set up in a place that lets you capture the reflections in the water, too.
Don't worry about getting too close; you'll only have to deal with crowds jostling your equipment and getting in the way of your shots. Remember, you won't really know where the aerial show will be until it starts. Back away and increase your chances of being in the right place. You can always use a telephoto lens if you want to get in close, but wider shots are almost always more dramatic.
Your exposures are going to be entirely too long to avoid camera shake. Set up on a sturdy tripod and use a cable release, remote release or your shutter delay timer. (Note that using the shutter delay will probably result in some poorly timed shots.)
Create a nice composition with the scene in front of you. Remember that you won't know exactly where the fireworks will end up, so you may need to adjust one or more times. You can zoom in later if you want just fireworks.
Once the action starts, start shooting 1 – 3 second exposures, trying to time the opening and closing of the shutter with the best of the action. Don't be overly concerned with the timing; it's fun to surprise yourself with the results. Check your results on the first few shots and adjust your focus, aperture and ISO settings accordingly.
The fun really begins when you get back home with your camera. It's incredibly exciting to review your results and process your photos to create the final images for sharing or printing. You'll probably want to do some cropping, sharpening and perhaps some noise reduction. If you were careful about focusing and keeping an eye on your exposures, the necessary adjustments should be minimal.
To get the best results from your shots, you'll need a software package that gives you options for adjusting exposure, contrast, etc. and includes features like sharpening and noise reduction. Adobe Photoshop® is probably the most well-known, but there are many alternatives available and one I particularly like for the Mac platform is Luminar. It's much less expensive, powerful, easy to use and versatile and you'll find a great set of tutorials for using it here.
With these tips and a bit of practice, you should be creating awesome fireworks photos in no time!