Photographing Fireworks

July 09, 2016

Be prepared with these essential tips to assist you in capturing a night-time fireworks display. This stunning spectacle is a challenge, but get it right and you will be delighted with your images. Know the theory already? 

Planning is key! Arrive early enough to scout out the best shooting locations before other onlookers occupy the most ideal spots. Learn as much as you can about the show before it begins such as the expected duration and where the fireworks will be coming from.

Choose your vantage point wisely by remaining aware of local weather conditions. Selecting a position that is upwind from the direction the smoke is blowing will vastly improve visibility and the end result.

The rules of composition still apply here so give some thought to the foreground and background elements that are apparent in the scene, how you will incorporate them in the image or how you will avoid them.

Prior to the evening darkness closing in, turn off your cameras flash, set the camera to manual mode and manually set your focus in anticipation of the fireworks so when they begin, you are ready! Direct the camera to either a dark area in the sky where the fireworks are expected to be, or, if in doubt, at another object of roughly the same distance and set the exposure.

With manual mode you are also able to control the exposure and aperture yourself. Try beginning with the following: ISO 100, f11 and .5 sec shutter speed. If the photos are not looking bright enough, experiment with varying the shutter speed as required while keeping the aperture constant.

Varying your shots with different shooting styles and settings. Capture a detailed shot close in to the fireworks’ burst, thought this will require at least at 200m zoom lens. Be mindful that if you change your focal length, you will also need to refocus with most zoom lenses.

Now for that real one-of-a-kind, stand out, blow-your-mind shot. Best results for fireworks photography are typically achieved with long exposures. The slow shutter speeds enable the image sensor to capture one or more fireworks launching, streaking into the sky and bursting outwards. Try shooting your long exposures in ‘bulb’ mode if conditions are changing rapidly – as is often the case in Melbourne.

As for tools, a sturdy tripod and remote shutter release are critical here to minimise any ‘camera shake’ which can be caused by anything from the vibration of people shuffling around while you shoot, to the physical movement of the camera caused by pressing the on-camera trigger button. A tripod will also help you to keep the horizon line straight.

We hope these tips help you capture some brilliant shots. If you think you may need one or two tools to get the best possible images, see below for a list of items we recommend. Also provided below is a number of sample shots taken by michaels team member Ian Zbiegnewski.

Happy shooting!


Fireworks photo

Fireworks Photo

Fireworks Photos

Images by Ian Zbiegnewski (All Rights Reserved)

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