HOW TO SHOOT FIREWORKS
With the 4th of July in a few days, there will be plenty of firework displays. If you want to catch some of these spectacular shows on camera, here a few tips to help you along. Fireworks are surprising easy to capture.
1. Use a tripod. This is the most important equipment (besides your camera) in order to take fireworks. Because of the longer shutter speed, the camera will record any camera shake or movement. If you have tried this in the past and saw that the fireworks looked like a bunch of squiggly lines, this is why. You need to keep the camera completely still. If you do not have a tripod, you can use something smaller, like a Gorilla Pod. If you are really in a jam, rest the camera on a flat surface like a wall or even the hood of a car.
2. Remote Shutter Release or Timed Shutter. As said above, you really want to keep the camera still and free of camera shake. The best way is to use a remote shutter cable. Depending on your camera there are many options for this. Most DSLR's have a cable that plugs into the camera that will allow you to operate your shutter without touching the camera itself. It will also allow you to lock down the shutter so it remains open. We will talk about this later. Another option is to use a remote shutter switch. Many cameras today have the abiltity to work the shutter wirelessly. Again, check your camera manufacturer for options. Lastly, if you do not have any of these, you can always set your camera to the self timer - usually two seconds is good. However, you will have to time it in order to anticipate when the firework will open.
3. Settings. If you have a DSLR the best way to photograph fireworks is by setting the camera in manual mode. Your ISO should be at 100. I usually set the Apeture at around F11. For Shutter Speed, set the camera to bulb and use a remote shutter to determine how long to keep the shutter open. If you are shooting with a point and shoot camera, your best option is to set the camera to Firework mode and use the 2 second timer. If you want to get creative, get a piece of black cardstock and use this to block the lens. This way you can get more than one firework opening in one frame. Press your shutter and capture a firework, then while the shutter is still pressed, cover the lens with the black cardboard. When the next firework goes off, uncover the lens to capture the next firework. Experiment with different amounts of time.
4. Focus. DSLR - I will usually auto focus beforehand either on an object or on the fireworks itself. Then I switch the lens to manual. This way the camera isn't hunting for focus while trying to get your keeper shots. Some also just set the focus manually to infinity or landscape mode. Try and see what works best for you.
5. Turn off the flash! Fireworks are bright enough and your flash isn't going to do you any good. Just turn it off.
6. Composition. If you are able, try to find a location where you can see part of the landscape too (doing this in advance helps but you will have to know where the fireworks will appear in the sky). This makes for more interesting shots. If you are in a field with a lot of people, try to get the audience in the shots watching the display. Experiment with different focal lengths, but remember to adjust your focus if zooming in or out.
7. Check your shots. From time to time during the display it's a good idea to review some of your shots and make adjustments if needed.
8. Most of all have fun and enjoy the show!