- Shooting mode: Manual
- Aperture: f/11
- ISO: 200
- Shutter speed: Between 1-4 seconds
With Fourth of July celebrations nearly upon us here in the United States, that means fireworks displays from coast to coast.
That also means tons of photographers ready and waiting with their cameras to take awesome fireworks photos.
But fireworks can be tough subjects to photograph well...
When it comes to how to photograph fireworks, there's three primary areas you need to be concerned about: gear, camera settings, and composition.
Let's explore each of these in more detail.
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Photography Gear for Photographing Fireworks
First things first, you can probably shoot decent photos of fireworks with a smartphone or a point and shoot camera, but for my money a DSLR or mirrorless rig with a zoom lens is a much better route to go.
The primary reason for this is because your DSLR or mirrorless camera gives you many more options for fine-tuning your camera settings than a typical phone or point and shoot camera.
Another reason why a DSLR or mirrorless camera is a good choice is the fact that you can use multiple lenses.
While I would recommend a zoom lens like a 24-70mm for most of your shots, if you wanted a wider view you could do so with a wide-angle lens. Conversely, if you wanted to get closer to the action, a telephoto lens is also a possibility.
Whatever the case, you'll want to mount your camera on a tripod to give it a good, stable base for getting sharp photos.
You'll also want a camera remote, that way you don't have to touch your camera to trigger the shutter. Sometimes even the action of pushing the shutter button can cause enough vibrations to cause blurry images, so a remote is a must-have.
Get more details on gear you should have for photographing fireworks and some tips on camera settings and composition in the video above by The School of Photography.
Camera Settings for Fireworks
For the best results, you'll need to shoot in manual mode.
I know that's a scary proposition for some photographers, but with a little practice, you can get the hang of it.
In most fireworks situations, the following settings should get you good results:
With these settings, the fireworks should be bright, but not overexposed. The sky behind them should be nice and dark as well.
There will need to be some experimentation with the shutter speed to get the exposure just right, but you should be able to get things dialed in within the first couple of firework explosions.
Additionally, you'll want to manually focus the lens.
The reason for this is that your camera's autofocus system will likely have trouble finding a focus point in the dark of night in between the bright flashes of the fireworks.
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But if you manually focus the lens, you can set the focus on something that's roughly the same distance from you as the fireworks will be, lock the focus, and you'll be good to go for sharp images throughout the fireworks display.
For more details on how to photograph fireworks, including an easy way to set your manual focus and alternate camera settings you can use, check out the video above by Tony & Chelsea Northrup.
How to Photograph Fireworks: Composition is Key
Once you have the right gear and camera settings lined out, you need to think about how to compose photos of fireworks.
As with the camera settings, getting the composition right will take a couple of tries.
On the one hand, if you shoot too wide, you might lose the impact of the fireworks and the detail they provide.
At the same time, if you zoom in too much, you might end up with a photo that shows only part of the explosion and nothing else.
Finding a happy medium will likely get you the most pleasing results.
For me, photos of fireworks that have some context to them are the best ones.
These shots have foreground or background elements (or both) that set the stage for a complete image, like the photo above.
In most cases, when you frame the shot, you'll want to leave room around the edge of the frame, that way you don't cut off part of the fireworks explosions.
This will also help you incorporate foreground or background elements into the shot as discussed above.
As you're shooting, be sure to check the edges of the shot and zoom out or in as needed to frame the shot for the best look.
Also check the horizon in your images - you want it to be perfectly straight for the most impact.
For more information on composing your fireworks photos, consult the video above by Neil Creek.
With that, you have a few key tips for photographing fireworks that should make your Fourth of July photos a success!