Now that summer is upon us and the 4th of July is coming up, I thought I’d give you some of my best tips on how to photograph fireworks! Fireworks are one of my favorite parts of any celebration, and I was able to perfect my skills when we went to Dove Mountain two years ago and in Katy last summer.
Tips for Photographing Fireworks
1. Get a tripod. I bought one from Walmart for $49.99. Best $49.99 I ever spent. It came with a bag for easy carrying, and it’s probably 66″ – when it’s fully extended, I can use it comfortably. (I’m about 5’10” – just FYI.)
2. Turn your camera to manual. You’re never to going to learn how to photograph fireworks in auto. Focus your lens and switch off auto focus. I used my 50mm, f/1.2 for these photographs, but you don’t need a super fast lens for fireworks. Given our location, I just liked the way the pictures looked compared to 16-35mm f/2.8 lens.
3. Switch your ISO to 100. In a really dark space, I used an f/8.0 and an shutter speed of 6.0 seconds. On a night in the middle of an urban area, I used f/16 and a shutter speed of 6.0 seconds. You may need to play around with it and see what works for you. 10.0 seconds was too long for me. I shot the finale at 2.5 seconds, but it was the only image that I shot at that shutter speed. Everything else was ISO 100, f/8.0, shutter speed 6.0 seconds. I didn’t use a remote shutter release at all, but you could if you wanted to minimize camera shake. You can also do the 2 second release.
f/8.0, 6.0s, ISO 100 (left) & f/16, 6.0s, ISO 100 (right)
Post-Processing Fireworks Photos in Lightroom
I edit all my photos using Adobe Lightroom, so I recommend DoubleConvex.com’s fireworks presets. These presets do a great job of bringing out the natural colors in the fireworks, minimizing the appearance of smoke, and allowing you to quickly adjust the black.
When cropping photos, consider it from different angles. Sometimes centering it looks best. Compare the vertical and horizontal. Use the rule of thirds to play with composition. Try to fill the frame. Leave a lot of black space. The beauty of learning how to photograph fireworks is that you can do so many things during post-processing.
Original Photo vs. Cropped Photo – Unedited
SOOC Settings – f/13.0, 5.0s, ISO 100
Final Photo with Lightroom Presets Applied / Black Enhanced
Final Thoughts on Photographing Fireworks
Learning how to photograph fireworks was really easy – once I learned to set my camera and forget about it. Know that you want to try and shoot at the beginning as much as possible so that you can minimize the smoke interference, but it will show up in your pictures as the firework show goes on.
Feel free to shoot me a note if you have any questions! Let me know if posts like these are helpful. I love photography, and if I can help other people learn to love their camera, I’m happy to do so!