Photographing Dramatic Fireworks

In China, fireworks are said to ward of evil spirits during the New Year’s Eve. For the rest of the world, it’s simply an excuse to make as much noise as possible. Fireworks come in different sizes, shapes and colors. Carefully crafted fireworks are a joy to behold in the darkened night sky. These fleeting works of art are best remembered by capturing them in a picture. Perfectly shot fireworks photos are treasured by both amateur and professional photographers. For those of you out there who are itching to snap a perfect picture of a spectacular fireworks show, here’s how.

Prepare your camera

To consistently capture fantastic fireworks photos you’ll need an SLR camera. Point and shoot cameras and even camera phones will do just fine, but you won’t get the same high-quality results as you would if you used an SLR. Taking fireworks photos mean that you’ll be taking pictures at night. You’ll need the SLR’s manual exposure control, longer shutter speed, and a very steady hand, or a tripod. To avoid getting a noisy, overexposed sky, you’ll need to set your camera’s ISO as low as it can get, which is usually at two hundred. If your camera happens to have a noise-reducing feature, turn it off. This way, you’ll get clearer, but slightly noisier fireworks photos. For JPEG photography, you need to set your camera’s white balance to tungsten or incandescent to capture the colors of the fireworks photos accurately. Lastly, you need to remove your screw-on filter. Using one while will potentially cause lens flare and stray reflections. Use a hood for your lens to lessen lens flare.

Setting up your camera

It is highly recommended that you set up your camera on a tripod stand if you want to take great fireworks photos. With a one to eight shutter speed you’ll be using, it is simply not possible to get a sharp image by hand. Some photographers even put bean or sandbags on top of their camera to reduce the vibration caused by the camera when taking fireworks photos.

Making the Exposure

Taking fireworks photos is not an exact science; you’ll need to tweak your camera settings every now and then to get that perfect shot. The rule of thumb is: the shorter the shutter speed, the crisper the photos. Long exposure will result in nice-looking light trails. With your ISO at 200, set your exposure setting to 1 second and f/5.6. You can also use the 4 seconds and f/11. Closing the aperture (increasing the f number) should fix overexposure. If your fireworks photos look washed out, boost your exposure by 1 f-stop. Take note that fireworks shows will have an increasing number of fireworks the longer it goes on. The finale is usually done with the biggest bang. A brighter sky will lead to overexposed fireworks photos unless you close the aperture as the show progresses. If you started at 4 seconds at f/11 you should be using 4 seconds at f/16 or f/22 when the finale rolls around.

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