Posted November 4, 2011 by Gavin Hoey in Articles

How to photograph Fireworks

Fireworks-1Tomorrow night is the 5th of November and here in the UK, that means it’s bonfire night. For those that don’t know Bonfire Night it’s also known as Guy Fawkes night which celebrates the failed attempt by a group of plotters to blow up the houses of Parliament in London 400 years ago.

Leaving aside the politics of 400 years past, bonfire night is really just our excuse to let off a load of fireworks and have a bit of a party. It’s also a great photo opportunity, so here’s my top 5 tips on capturing your best firework photos ever.

1 Be Prepared
Preparation is the key, so be ready BEFORE the display starts. Check you have a fully charged battery in your camera, a clear memory and the front of your lens is nice and clean.

2 Rock Solid Support
The most important piece of equipment you’ll need (after a camera) is a tripod and the sturdier the better. To really capture the spectacular shapes and colours of the fireworks you want the shutter to be open for a few seconds or longer and that’s far longer then you can handle without a tripod.

Fireworks-23 Manual Metering
Forget the auto and semi auto modes all that black sky is going to totally confuse your cameras meter. That means it’s up to you to take control and that means switching the camera to manual mode (M). Start by enter an aperture of f8 a shutter speed of 2 seconds and ISO 200. It’s not an exact science and factors like light pollution and personal taste may well dictate a change of settings (see 5)

4 Aim for the stars
You’re ready to take pictures, so point your camera to where the fireworks will be and wait.

5 Fire at will
As the fireworks start going off take a shot or two and review the results. If the sky or fireworks are too bright use a smaller aperture (f11, f16 etc.) If the firework trails are too small use a longer shutter speed (4 seconds, 8 seconds) but remember to reduce the aperture (bigger number) to stop the image getting too bright.

OK there you go. Follow the five steps above and you’ll get great firework photos every time. If you’ve mastered the basics then here’s three more useful tips…

Bonus Tips
A cable release is very handy for this work. It stops you touching and therefore moving, the camera which can cause blurred images.  If your camera is having trouble focusing switch to manual focus and set it to infinity. Don’t use flash.

To Help you remember, print off my handy Firework Photography Field Guide by clicking the image below.

Fireworks Guide

Gavin Hoey