Ten Tips for Photographing Fireworks on Bastille Day
With summer celebrations happening all over, fireworks are often a part of the fun. Many people believe fireworks are too difficult to photograph, but the best thing to do is try and improve each time! Here are 10 tips to help you get started:
1. Tripod: Photographing fireworks requires long exposures. To make sure the camera is not moving during the exposure, a tripod is absolutely necessary. No matter how steady your hand is, it is not steady enough to achieve sharp images.
2. Cable release or remote: Even with the camera on a tripod, there is a risk to image blur if you touch the camera while it is taking a photo. To avoid any involuntary blur and loss of image quality, use your cable release or remote. If you have a 'bulb' setting, this is a good time to use it: Press the release as the firework is launched from the ground and leave open for a few second, until the burst fades away.
3. Turn vibration reduction off: If you have IS for Canon or VR for Nikon lenses, there is a good chance you leave it on most of the time when you hand hold your camera. This useful feature compensates for any shake from your hands and if it cannot detect any vibrations, it will actually create some, which of course will create blurry images! To avoid this, turn the vibration reduction off when on a tripod.
4. Flash off: There is no need for it at all, so let's make sure it does not come on inadvertently.
5. ISO: Just like for regular tripod-assisted night photography, keep the ISO low in the range of 100 or 200.
6. Shutter speed: You need a long exposure to capture the light movement created by the bursts. Consider starting around 1 second and you can usually go up to 4 seconds depending on the size and length of the burst. Using the bulb mode can be useful (see above under cable release)
7. Aperture: Setting the aperture between F8 and f11 is a good bet. However, finding the right shutter speed is more important for fireworks than aperture.
8. Focusing: Having the camera on Auto focus might create more trouble than anything because cameras are not good at focussing in low light situations. It is best to set the focus to infinity as there is usually enough distance between you and the fireworks. If you want to focus on something smaller or on part of the burst, you will need to adjust manually.
9. Composition: Photos of fireworks can become a little repetitive and dull if you don't include something a little unique about the location, or some spectators in the foreground. Consider your location carefully when you set up before the show.
10. Getting set up: Arrive early to the location and explore the various elements you will want to include and exclude in your photos. You might even want to practice your compositions before the fireworks start. Also observe where the wind is coming from to ensure it carries the smoke away from you, otherwise your images might look a bit murky.
Have fun photographing fireworks this summer! Tell us where you caught some and share your own tips in the comments below.
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About the Author
Sophie has been a photographer, educator and traveller for most of her adult life. She founded Better Paris Photos in 2008 (which became Better Travel Photos in 2014) to deliver exceptional photography experiences to travellers.