What Equipment Do You Need?
| Digital SLR or other camera with manual settings
| Tripod or a solid base to rest your camera
| Trigger Release Cable
| Head Torch
I spent a lot of time photographing fireworks for a local company I used to work for, and for various couples when doing their Wedding Photography. Firework photography is always good fun and If you have done any long exposure shots before then it’s pretty much the same thing, but you don’t usually need an exposure of more than a second or two. A good tripod is essential and a trigger release, if you have one, to avoid any camera shake. It’s normally better to get as far back as possible because the fireworks nearly always go higher than you think they will, and having been stood directly underneath a number of displays, the best photos usually come from further away because it gives you an opportunity to include foreground objects to give an idea of the scale of the event or to capture the crowd enjoying it.
What Lens Should I Use?
A standard lens such as a 24-70mm lens will be fine for most displays. If you're at a large display then a wider angle lens like a 12-24mm will be better because the large fireworks, especially during the finale.
Long Exposure Techniques
Once you've set your camera up on a tripod you can start to play with the camera settings. As with most long exposures you can keep a very low ISO and I usually use an aperture of about f8 or f9 as I find this works well. The exposure time will depend on the intensity of the display, but generally, between 2 and 4 seconds is enough. You can set your focus to infinity using manual focus, or use your torch to light a focus point of your choosing before the display starts. Some people recommend turning on 'long exposure noise reduction', but there shouldn't be much noise with that level of exposure, and it can slow down your camera a bit causing you to miss key moments if you're taking photos throughout the display.
The key to Firework Photography is timing, you need to try and time it so you capture the light trails and the fans of colour from the shells. If you listen you can normally hear the tell tale thuds as the big fireworks launch into the sky, so you can get ready to hit the shutter as they explode. If you are including some foreground it’s best to focus on that, and if it has a light source like a building, then you might need to adjust the exposure a bit so that both the foreground and fireworks expose correctly. One thing to watch out for is condensation on your lens. If you’ve had your camera in a car or backpack where it’s warm and then you bring it out into the cold air your lens can fog up repeatedly until the temperatures equalise so it’s worth letting your equipment acclimatise if it’s cold and damp which it usually will be!
If you are going for close up shots then it’s just a case of zooming in and filling the frame with the colour and light trails. I like to get some foreground in whenever possible because I always think that sense of scale shows just how impressive the display really is! This can be a bit tricky as you don’t always know how high the fireworks will go or how many are going at once. But with a bit of practise you will soon get a feel for it and be able to capture some great shots! If you have any questions feel free to get in touch via the website or social media.