Admittedly I’m a little obsessed with the thought of getting good photos of this year’s 4th of July fireworks, but not sure yet if I’ll be able to get out this year. Luckily Chicago’s Navy Pier features fireworks twice a week throughout the summer just for the heck of it. Granted, they aren’t as big of a show as the 4th fireworks, but for the purpose of practicing for bigger and better shows (like the ones in Disney World), I think these smaller pyrotechnics will do just nicely.
I’ve always wanted to get better at shooting fireworks. Most of my attempts are pretty lackluster and shaky. In fact, the cover shot you see above is the best one I could find and that lacks the long light trails you want to see in good fireworks photographs. Alas we gotta work with what we have for now – but we can get better – and that’s the point of this post. You just can’t get great results without a tripod, so I’m going to invest in a good one. I already have a remote shutter so I’m partway there!
I’ve been scouring the Internet for good tutorials on how to shoot fireworks and since it’s a timely topic, here’s some of the good ones I suggest:
How to Photograph Fireworks – Fireworks Photography Fundamentals – NY Institute of Photography
How To Photograph Fireworks – Darren Rowse – Digital Photography School
15 Tips for Successful Fireworks Photography – Darlene Hildebrandt – Digital Photography School
Taking Pictures of Fireworks – Lindsay Silverman
How to Photograph Fireworks – wikiHow
Photographing Fireworks – Geoff Lawrence
How to Photograph Fireworks – Matador Network
Summary of Firework Photography Tips
The main tips are essentially the same with some slight variations and preferences:
1) Use a tripod and a remote release to keep the camera as steady and as still as possible;
2) A wide angle lens is usually best as it will allow you to capture more of the sky;
3) Set your camera to bulb so you can hold the shutter open manually – usually for 2 to 3 seconds;
4) Set your aperture to f/8 to f/16;
5) Shoot at a low ISO like 100 to reduce noise;
6) Turn off auto focus and manually adjust your focus to something in the distance like a cityscape if that’s in your background. Some articles also suggest setting focus to infinity, but you should check your shots just in case – it depends on how far you are from the bursts.
I’ve been obsessing over photography tutorials lately as I haven’t been 100% happy with my photos, especially after my most recent trip to Disney World. Recently I’ve felt my photography skills have been stagnant and I realize it’s because I haven’t been working to get better, I’ve just expected my shots to be good without practicing better technique or learning specific techniques. I think the most important thing you can do to improve your photography is to get out there and keep shooting. Learn what your camera can do. Keep trying new things and practice, practice, practice!
I know me rattling off these camera settings may seem really intimidating, but you can do it! Just give it a try! I’ve never done this before either and I’m promising myself and you that I’m not going to let this summer go by without trying it! If you read some of the tutorials above, be sure to also skim some of the comments. So many folks talk about trying things for the first time and how pleasantly surprised they were about the results they achieved. Those who have some experience talk about how they’ve gotten better over time. You can’t get better if you don’t give it a shot!
Let me know if you do any firework photography this Fourth of July holiday (or any other occasion featuring fireworks). I’d love to post some of your shots and hear how your experience went!