It’s nearly Independence Day here in the States, and that means fireworks. As a photographer, I love shooting those 4th of July pyrotechnics — it’s like I’ve captured a bit of that summertime magic forever. So to help you improve your own fireworks images, I’ve put together some tips that’ll make sure your photos are dramatic, sharp, and bright. Take a look:
Song: “Coco and the Squirrel” by the Texas Gypsies
- Low ISO: If you keep your ISO as low as possible, you’ll get images that look clear and sharp. Try to shoot at the lowest ISO your camera allows — usually that means an ISO of 100. If you have a smartphone, you can change your ISO (as well as shutter speed and aperture) using a camera app that lets you adjust this setting.
- Shutter speed: Shutter speed maybe be the most important setting for photographing fireworks, since it has the most variability. The night-time shots will mean a long shutter speed — at least 1 second. But you might want to do as high as 4 seconds in order to capture the entire burst from when it shoots up until it burns out or to capture nearby buildings or scenery. However, at longer times you may also expose things you don’t want to record — like the smoke — so try various exposure times to see which you like best.
- Aperture: For shooting fireworks, a general rule of thumb is to shoot at an aperture in the range of f5.6-16. A higher aperture (like f16) will result in the light trails being thinner, while a lower aperture (like f5.6) will widen them. An aperture of f8 is a good compromise.
- Stabilize your camera: Because you’re shooting at night and need a long shutter speed, a hand-held camera is going to give you a blurry final shot. You’ll need something to stabilize your camera or smartphone to keep your images looking sharp, like a good tripod.
- Don’t wait for the finale. Take your shots early, because after a while, the smoke from the fireworks builds up in the air, making it hard to see the fireworks themselves.
Though the low-light conditions making fireworks photos seem difficult at first, if you follow my tips, you’ll be snapping stunning images in no time.