10 Top Tips For the Perfect Fireworks Shot

With fireworks season just around the corner, people are about to pack into cars and head out to watch the sky fill with colour.

But with the adventure comes the inevitable frustration of blurry, out of focus photos that never quite capture the mood of the moment. To try and change this we spoke to Mark Price, a photographer who knows a thing or two about the perfect fireworks photo. Follow his top tips and you might just be ready to capture the magic of one of the most special nights of the year.

1. Get There Early

Arrive early at the display if you can. This will give you time to find out where the fireworks will be set off, and have a look at how you might compose your images.

Take a few test shots first before any fireworks start, to be clear about how your image with the fireworks will look.

2. Bring a Tripod

Shooting in low light really requires longer exposures so keeping the camera still is crucial.

If you are shooting on a phone, you can try something like ‘slow shutter cam’ and you may be able to trigger the shot with the earphone volume switch to avoid knocking the camera.

Ideally you’ll have a DSLR camera though, with a remote shutter trigger to avoid knocking the camera.

3. Pack a Spare

Make sure you have spare batteries, storage cards, and / or enough space on your device to store your images when the display starts.

You need to be well prepared to capture a lot of images, without too much distraction, or equipment issues.

4. Use as low an ISO value as possible

If you have a DSLR – 100 to 400 for a full frame camera or 100 – 250 for a crop sensor camera, this will help to keep the image noise as low as possible.

If you have an app for a phone that enables you to lower ISO, do that.

5. Get Focused

You’re likely to want to focus on something in the distance, so get that arranged before the display starts.

You can use a powerful pocket torch to shine into the distance, and use live view to focus on that bright light in low light conditions.

If you are using a phone, you should be able to use the same technique – shine the torch into the distance, focus on it, and tap on the screen.

6. Set Your Aperture

For a DSLR, set your aperture to somewhere between F7.1 and F11. This will ensure that you have good depth of field for your image. Take a test shot or two before you shoot the fireworks, and zoom into 100% on your camera’s image preview.

7. Go Manual

When the display starts, begin to shoot, manually adjusting the shutter time to suit the fireworks. It’s best to start with some shots around 2-5 seconds, and increase exposure time manually if needed.

With a phone, in the ‘slow shutter cam’ app you can try the ‘Light Trail’ mode, with a shutter time between 1-15 seconds, and sensitivity set at 1/4.

Turn your flash off if you are shooting with a phone, or a point and shoot camera.

8. Review As You Go

Be ready to review your first images as the display starts, and make any adjustments to camera settings, composition, and focus so that you are happy that you are capturing your desired series of images.

9. Don’t Rely on the LCD Preview

If you have a DSLR, turn the histogram preview on in your camera so that you see it after each frame. When shooting at night it is easy to be deceived by the bright LCD preview display into thinking that your shot is well exposed, only to get home and discover that the raw file is very dark.

10. Experiment and Have Fun

If you’ve captured some nice images early on in the display, why not try some different compositions – how about zooming in a bit further, or just shooting a single burst of fireworks in the sky, with no foreground, for example. I always find it helpful to try different styles of images during the same shoot.

Words and Pictures by Mark Price

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