Let’s face it…there’s all types of digital cameras and lots of ways to shoot good fireworks photos. Here are some settings and suggestions to help aid you in creating some masterpiece photos.
TIP: If you have a tripod or can borrow one, you can capture several bursts at one time on one frame of your camera. This can be a very cool look. One tip for helping to achieve easy fireworks photos is you will want to put your lens AF switch to off (autofocus) which is located generally on the barrel of your DSLR lens. Switch it to M for manual focus and set it to infinity or close to infinity if you are shooting close ups of the bursts. If you own a compact camera, you can go into the settings and find M for manual control and zoom the scale on the right side to infinity and leave it there unless you are shooting close ups of fireworks, then try to gauge where the focus should be with your eye. Some cameras will work in autofocus but most will have a hard time at it in the dark. Also make sure to familiarize yourself with how all the knobs on the tripod work before using it since you will be in the dark when shooting. Use a cable release of your 2 sec. self-timer if you do not own one.
Try these tripod settings for Fireworks…
• First Method with tripod…Manual Mode (M on top dial of DSLR camera) ISO setting at 200 ISO, Start with 1 second (comes up as 1″) and f-stop at f/8. Note that some fireworks are white, others color, some mixed, some brighter than others, so you may have to tweak your f-stop a little bit depending on the light. If they are too bright, stop down toward f/11 or f/16. If they are too dark, open up your aperture to f/5.6 or f/4.
Try to locate an area where there are no street lights or headlights in your field of vision to cut down on any glare and get the fireworks nice and crisp. If the fireworks are above water, you may want to take some pictures with a wide angle lens to pick up the reflection they will create. Also try to zoom in on some for a whole new look.
• Second method with tripod…Choose your ISO (I would start with 200 for most consumer cameras). Choose Program or Shutter Priority Mode (P, S or Tv on top dial of DSLR’s). Either of these will work. You will choose the shutter speed and the camera will do the rest for you and choose the f-stop. Try choosing slower shutter speeds by turning your wheel to the left direction. Start with 1″ sec. and go slower to capture more bursts at one time. Try going up to 10 secs. or more just to see what it does for you when there are a lot going up at one time.
• Third Method with tripod…Choose your ISO (I would start with 200 for most consumer cameras). Choose Aperture Priority Mode (A or Av on top dial of DSLR’s). Choose your f-stop. Smaller f-stops (your larger numbers) will usually make thinner trails of light. The camera will adjust for how long the shutter speed should be.
• Another option is to set your self-timer to continuous shooting and let the camera do all the work while you lay back and soak it all in. We as photographers, often miss the vastness of fireworks and only see them thru the camera lens, sometimes missing the moment of their beauty, but hopefully capturing it in our photographs.
Shooting fireworks hand held With NO TRIPOD…
• Try P, S or Tv to be in control of your shutter speed. Turn the wheel by your thumb to the right to get faster shutter speeds when needed. Try starting at 1/60 sec. and let the camera choose your f-stop. You’ll want to be in control of your ISO. Try starting with ISO 1600 and go higher if necessary. Remember the higher the ISO is set, the faster your shutter speed will go. However you do not want to go too high on shutter speeds or your fireworks pictures will be dark. Also note that as you go higher in ISO numbers, your photos will get more grainy. If you do not own a tripod, you can still get pictures, they just might not be as detailed because of the high grain. Today a lot of the newer cameras can handle the grain much better than they did in the past.
Most of all, have fun!