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How to Photograph Fireworks

Want to add some explosive imagery to your portfolio? Learn a few simple skills for snapping fireworks.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Attach your camera to a tripod to stabilize it as you photograph the fireworks. Place it on the tripod vertically if you want to capture both the rocket's upward trajectory and explosion.
  • TIP: For additional stability, attach a cable release to take pictures without touching the camera.
  • Step 2: When the show begins, click the shutter when you hear the shell burst so you don't miss the explosion. Take as many photographs as you can and enjoy the awe-inspiring display well after the bursts have faded.
  • FACT: When fireworks were invented over 1,000 years ago, they were all white and gold, the natural colors of their main ingredients: sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate.
  • Step 3: Set your focus. If you want to mainly capture the sky, set your focus to infinity; if your field of vision includes other compositional elements, focus on the objects to increase their sharpness against the streaks of light, and make sure the horizon is level.
  • TIP: Aperture, the size of the shutter’s opening, is measured in f-stops. The larger the f-stop, the smaller the opening.
  • Step 4: Put your camera in manual mode and turn off the flash. Then, adjust the shutter speed. Choose an exposure between 1 and 8 seconds to ensure you capture the trail and explosion.
  • TIP: If your camera doesn't allow manual adjustments, set it to a fireworks or landscape setting.
  • Step 5: To avoid overexposing the bright fireworks, use a low ISO and a small aperture. Choose an ISO between 100 and 400, with a corresponding aperture range between f8 and f22, depending on the intensity of the fireworks' colors -- the brighter the firework, the higher the f-stop number.
  • Step 6: Find a spot to photograph the fireworks. Look for either a clear view of the sky or a foreground element, such as a statue, building, or reflection on water, to include in your shot.

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