Photographing Fireworks

In spite of my advanced years (!), I have never had a serious go at photographing fireworks.  However, that all changed a few weeks ago during a short trip to Brittany when, by chance, I found myself in Camaret-sur-Mer (on the tip of the middle peninsula) in time for the fireworks display on the eve of Bastille Day.  I was in a prime position: staying in a second floor hotel room overlooking the port and directly opposite the area where the fireworks were to be set off.  I realised that this would be a golden opportunity, but where to start?  Fortunately, I had a laptop and found plenty of helpful (sometimes contradictory…..!) advice on the web so picked out the best bits and managed to get some images which I’m quite proud of.

 

Here are my key tips:

  • Use a tripod and a cable release (there’s also info on the web about photographing fireworks without a tripod).
  • Use a wide angle lens to make sure that the fireworks bursts are retained within the field of view; they can always be cropped later.
  • Try to find a viewpoint which avoids the crowds and set up and frame before it gets too dark.  If you can find an area which includes water, so much the better as you can get some interesting reflections.
  • Remove any filters and make sure the lens is clean to avoid rogue halos and reflections.
  • Blank off the eyepiece to avoid stray light affecting the exposure.
  • Use manual focussing and set it to infinity.
  • Aim for quite long exposures (typically 15 - 30 seconds) so that several bursts are captured on one frame - use a ‘moderate’ ISO (e.g. 200 ISO) and an aperture of f/8 - f/16.  The best settings will depend on the intensity of the fireworks and your location, so check the histogram of the initial exposures and adjust settings accordingly.
  • Shoot in RAW so that it is easier to tweak the exposure in Photoshop and, in particular, to retain details in the shadow areas and some colour in the sky.

 

Have a go yourself by photographing the fireworks at Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve something to look forward to……

Ric Harding

Fireworks_1: Nikon D800 with 24-70 mm Nikkor lens at 48 mm, ISO 200, 11 sec at f/11, tripod

Fireworks_1: Nikon D800 with 24-70 mm Nikkor lens at 48 mm, ISO 200, 11 sec at f/11, tripod


Fireworks_2: Nikon D800 with 24-70 mm Nikkor lens at 44 mm, ISO 200, 30 sec at f/16, tripod

Fireworks_2: Nikon D800 with 24-70 mm Nikkor lens at 44 mm, ISO 200, 30 sec at f/16, tripod

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