Tips for fireworks shooting?

Started Jun 10, 2007 | Discussions
krebss Regular Member • Posts: 113
Tips for fireworks shooting?

Hi all,

Just wondering if you had any tips for fireworks shooting. I haven't really any experience on it.

I've got a Canon 400D with Sigma 18-200mm, tripod and remote.

For what I've seen, the best is the use the minimum ISO (100), aperture around F8-11-16 and something like 2-6 seconds shutter speed. Also, having manual focus should help.

The scene would be the Eiffel Tower for Bastille day so I'll include the tower in the shot which will help to focus, I was thinking of autofocusing on the tower then switch to MF and leave it like that. Also the tower should be alight so I hope it won't blow out too much.

I'll try to make some tests few minutes before it starts. Maybe I can set the camera to properly expose the tower and keep this setting for all the show?

Any advises? Is shorter or longer shutter speed advised in some situations? aperture?

Thank you.

Hosebag Senior Member • Posts: 2,381
Re: Tips for fireworks shooting?

A quote I found:

Start with a solid tripod. If your camera is not motionless during the rather long exposures necessary for fireworks photography, the smooth paths of light will appear jagged. Mount your camera on a tripod and carefully level it.

I generally use manual everything for fireworks photography: manual exposure, manual focus ...

As I mentioned previously, I like to setup my manual focus prior to dark. Pick a subject that is a similar distance as the fireworks will be. Since I often start my exposures with a dark sky over all focus points, autofocus does not work. Since a narrow aperture is used at a generally long distance, a wide depth of field usually covers any manual focus errors. Be careful to not bump the focus ring after the action starts. Also remember that changing focal length changes focusing in some zoom lenses. Check your lens for this attribute before dark. As a focus alternative, you can focus on the first burst that is fired.

For a shutter speed, Bulb is often best. Turn IS off for this. I like to press the remote shutter release as a rocket is launching and hold it open until the firework completely fades from its explosion. This is generally 2 to 10 seconds. Missed the rockets on the first blast? You might be able to include the next set. Because the fireworks are constantly and rapidly moving, keeping the shutter open for long periods of time does not affect the exposure. Exposure is then based on the aperture and ISO settings used. If there are subjects in addition to the fireworks included in the photo that are lit by a constant light, a specific shutter speed may be required.

You may think that a fast aperture would be helpful since you are shooting in the dark, but you are actually shooting bright light. The best aperture is usually between a narrow f/8 and an even narrower f/16. The exact setting is somewhat dependent on the distance of the fireworks (light fall-off, air clarity). Using an aperture narrower than f/16 will result in soft (not sharp) images as diffraction becomes an issue. Watch your histogram - keep the brightest pixels close to the right of the graph but not overexposed (stacked on the right side of the histogram).

I generally use ISO 100 for the lowest noise levels possible.

Quickly analyze the first photograph you can capture. How does the histogram read? Is the framing right? Remember that you can crop later. Is the image sharp? Make any adjustments necessary until you have it perfected. Then concentrate on the action. Long shows will require lots of memory cards - be prepared. Make spot checks periodically to make sure no settings have changed.

Avoid too many bursts in one fireworks photo. In my opinion, the overexposed areas created by repeated rockets and bursts make a fireworks photo look unattractive in addition to looking too busy. The finale may be the worst time to photograph fireworks. Your opinion may be different - and photography has no rules. Be creative.

For added impact, get additional subjects in your fireworks photo. Large buildings look great in fireworks pictures. Lakes and rivers create beautiful reflections. Adding a person or persons to the photo adds interest. A flash will be of no use in lighting the fireworks, but can be useful in lighting a foreground subject watching the fireworks. Try lighting foreground subjects with your flashlight. You will probably want to focus on foreground subjects instead of the fireworks for these shots. Again, be creative!

Creativity doesn't need to end with the shot. The black sky background in fireworks photos makes it easy to add other fireworks blasts or other items (such as a moon) to your images in Photoshop. Try replacing the complete black background with your country's flag.

CityLights Forum Pro • Posts: 12,550
awesome opportunity

also more difficult than regular fire works shots.

With most fireworks, you don't have to worry about the fireworks exposing, they are bright enough, that you just need to make sure the shutter is open during the firework. Typically you focus on infinity, f/5.6 or f/8, ISO 100 or 200, point the camera at the firework and using bulb mode and a remote shutter release, open the shutter at the start of the firework, leave it open for as many fire works as you want then let it close. Whatever fireworks you see during the shutter open will be recorded in the picuture.

This is more complex because you want the forground to expose as well as the firework. I would take some test shots of the forground before the fireworks and try to dial in a 2 to 4 second exposure. Anything longer and you will have too many firework explosions in the shot.

Good Luck!

OP krebss Regular Member • Posts: 113
Re: Tips for fireworks shooting?

Thank you for this!

As per the bulb, it sounds like a very good point but I won't be really able to use it with the eiffel tower alight ... Or maybe I can try and it would give different shots like having the tower only slightly lighted or very bright.

slr_SoFL Regular Member • Posts: 236
Re: Tips for fireworks shooting?

Great information. I look forward to using it myself as well.
Just a weekend hack...

 slr_SoFL's gear list:slr_SoFL's gear list
Canon EOS 7D Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Canon EF 28-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM +2 more
Mick Seymour Regular Member • Posts: 159
Hosebag that's excellent. Thanks. (nt)


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