Don’t let photographing fireworks baffle you…fireworks really are simple to capture. The key to remember is your shutter speed. This is the time when you need to exercise patience and use shutter speeds of several seconds or longer in order to achieve the image you want.

There are a few tools that will make photographing fireworks very easy: a tripod, a cable or remote shutter release, and knowledge of how to change a few settings on your camera. Note that you can take photographs of fireworks without these tools, as there are workarounds for everything, but these tools will make the experience simpler.

Quick rundown of what is explained in detail below:

  • choose a location
  • use a tripod
  • compose the shot
  • f/11
  • set focus to infinity and switch to manual focus
  • ISO-100
  • BULB
  • open shutter when you hear the fireworks set off
  • close shutter when you see the fireworks are fading

Now, here is further explanation:

After you have decided on a location to photograph the fireworks from and have arrived early, it is time to set up your gear. Set your tripod up, giving you enough room that others will not bump it. You will want your camera perfectly still for several seconds to keep your images sharp.

After attaching your camera to the tripod, you will want to compose your shots. If you don’t know where the fireworks will explode, you will have to do this step as soon as the first few bursts go off.

Compose the shot
Note that when you compose your shot, you may want to include more than just the fireworks in the frame to give a more interesting composition. Look for trees, buildings, reflections, or even the crowd around you to include in the frame.

Now it is time for the camera settings. Go to manual. That’s right, out of auto and into manual. We will keep it simple, so don’t worry. First set your aperture to f/11. This will give you a nice depth of field.

But, you want to use manual focus, otherwise your camera may take too much time intrying to autofocus for each shot. Those precious milliseconds might mean a lost shot. So focus on the first burst or on the horizon. Then, change the focus to manual. You can also manually focus to infinity.

Next, set your ISO to 100. You want your images to be free of any grain.

Shutter speed
The shutter speed is next. Fireworks are bright and will literally draw themselves into the image. So, we will need to be able to control how long we want the shutter speed to be. Turn the shutter speed slow…slower…past 2 seconds…past 10 seconds…past 30 seconds…all the way to BULB.

The BULB setting means that the shutter opens when you press the shutter button and closes when you release it…and this is where your remote shutter release comes in handy.¬†Using the remote shutter release means you can keep your hands off the camera, reducing the risk of slight movement if you press the shutter release button on the camera.

Open the shutter
Yep, now it’s time to press the remote shutter release button. To get the first trails of the fireworks, open the shutter as soon as you hear the first take off of the shells. Keep the shutter open as the shell bursts and the fireworks sparkle in the night.

Close the shutter
Once the burst has fizzled out, close your shutter. This is usually 2 to 5 seconds. That’s it!

I would love to see your results. Post a comment below with a link to your fireworks shots and let me know how it went!

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