Don’t Forget These Important Tips When Photographing the Fireworks

For more stories like this, please subscribe to The Phoblographer.

Celebration time is coming up! For some of us in Canada and the United States, it will be Independence Day very soon! That will mean we’ll be photographing a lot of fireworks. The year 2021 will be special for lots of us too. I’ll be super happy to shoot fireworks on the 4th of July. So we dove into our archives to find some essential tips for photographing the fireworks. Take a look!

How to Shoot Them with Your Phone

Here’s an important quote from an article we did on how to go about Photographing the Fireworks with your phone:

  • Use a manual settings app: Use an app that lets you set at least the focus manually. This way your phone isn’t searching in the darkness for the fireworks to appear. You can also use the app to adjust settings like shutter speed, locking ISO, etc. Go for long shutter speeds and a lower ISO setting. In general, underexpose a bit.
  • Stabilize your phone: I’m not expecting everyone to use a tripod with their phone, so just remember to tuck your elbows in when you shoot. This will keep the cameraphone more stable. Also be sure to hold it with both hands.
  • Use the burst shot ability: Using burst helps a ton when it comes to getting the exact photo you want.
  • Scope Out and Claim a Spot: By ensuring that you get a good spot to watch the fireworks, you don’t have to worry about issues like people getting in the way of your images. (Of course, that is if you’re super serious.) This tip especially goes out to those of us (like me) who are vertically challenged.”

With Dedicated Cameras, Superzooms Are Best

Here’s a tip from a post we wrote last year. These Superzooms will work! One that really stands out is the Sony 200-600mm lens.:

“Although most photographers tend to gravitate towards wide-angle lenses when photographing fireworks, superzooms can actually be lifesavers. Superzooms cover a huge focal range and allows for a great deal of compositional variety. You can shoot wide to capture the entire scene or punch in to really focus on specific details. Superzooms are also helpful in case you’re unable to secure a prime shooting location. Find higher ground and zoom in to get rid of any unwanted obstacles that may be in your field of view.”

Good Ingredients 

Here’s an important section from another post we’ve written:

“Photography is a lot like cooking: start with good ingredients, and if you are doing something unfamiliar start with a recipe you like and follow it. Here is my recipe for reliably getting solid results when photographing pyrotechnic displays.

  • Research the location
  • Use a tripod or other solid support
  • Shoot using your camera’s raw format
  • Do not use any auto exposure mode. By any I mean all: auto ISO, Aperture priority, Shutter-speed priority, and all Program modes.
  • My experience is that shutter speeds in the four to thirty second range are ideal. For single shell bursts a 4 second exposure gives you a pretty good trail but a 6 to 8 second exposure starting when you see the shell’s launch is safer. Longer exposures work well with multiple shell bursts.
  • If you can turn off the camera’s long-exposure noise reduction modes, do so. This is not a situation when you can wait for the camera to make a dark exposure (to map noise and hot pixels) after the real exposure finishes.
  • Shoot at base ISO for your camera or ISO 100 and stop down to around f9 (+/- one stop) depending on the fireworks used and your distance from them.
  • The background is supposed to be dark. Do not let your TTL meter fool you.
  • Zooms are going to be more versatile than fixed focal length zooms. Start by framing a little loosely and adjust according to the size of the bursts. Keep in mind that some bursts are very large.
  • Do not rely on the infinity mark on a lens. Prior to the start of the show use magnified live view to focus on a building or another distant object which is as far away as the fireworks will be from you, and then turn off autofocus.
  • A wired or wireless trigger is a good thing to have.”

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.