Bonfire night is just over a week away, so we thought we’d share our 8 tips to help you photograph fireworks.
One of the first things you need to do to get the best firework photographs is turn off autofocus. This may seem daunting if you’re not used to focusing manually, but without this step it’s incredibly difficult to capture a good image. On autofocus your camera will try to focus on the night sky – which it will struggle to do, and you could miss your firework completely. If you’re not sure if you’ve got the focus right, review your images and adjust it until it’s spot on.
A tripod is a super useful tool for firework images. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. Street furniture or a sturdy box works just as well – as long as you’re not holding your camera you’ll be fine. Long exposures mean your camera has to be steady, which you won’t achieve by holding it. (It also frees your hands up for a hot chocolate!)
This one may sound simple, but makes all the difference. Make sure you have enough space for the trails of the firework to go. This means zooming out more than you usually would, or changing the angle of your camera slightly. Cropping off half the firework isn’t usually wanted – and if you go too far out you can always crop in closer during post production.
While live view can be really useful at times, it drains the battery super quickly. If you’re out for the evening, turn it off and use your viewfinder instead. It’ll mean you get to use your camera for longer. If you really don’t want to leave live view, make sure you stock up on extra batteries before you head out.
Try to keep your ISO as low as possible. While this may seem counterproductive on the night, it’ll help when it comes to post-production or printing your images. It will keep your images from being too grainy and spoiling the impact of the firework.
Experiment with shutter speed until you find the effect you love. We like to begin at around 3 seconds for large displays and 1/25 for home fireworks. These give very different effects but it works for us! When you’ve found something you’re happy with make a note of it. This will stop you having to go through it all again next year.
Using an aperture of between f5.6 – f8 is where we usually get our best results. The larger the aperture, the wider the trails tend to be, so keep changing the setting until you have a look you’re happy with. (The trail size will also vary depending on the firework type.)
Every firework gives off smoke. Try to stand away from the wind so it doesn’t affect your photographs too much. If you’re at a large display try to capture all your images as early as possible as the smoke will build up as the display goes on.
A final bonus tip – don’t let your photography take over! While capturing the perfect fireworks photograph is amazing, it’s not everything. If it’s not going to plan take a break, grab a cinder toffee, a sparkler and a marshmallow to roast on the fire. Look at the fireworks away from your lens and come back to your images later (or not!).
For more photography tips including a fireworks photograph workshop, take a look at our Courses and Workshops.