How To Photograph Fireworks

I thought it would be fitting to show my readers how to photograph fireworks seeing that it is only a few days before the 4th of July, Independence Day. I’m from Canada and we celebrate Canada Day on July 1st. Here are some shots I did on Canada Day.

picture of fireworks

Go scope out the location a day or two before the event. These photographs were taken from the lane behind Connaught Drive adjacent to the Kin Coulee toboggan hill where the fireworks were let off. This is a great vantage point as I was on the same plane as the fireworks. I did not need to point my camera 90 degrees into the sky, that would be awkward.

photo of fireworks

You will need a camera that can be set to bulb and has a tripod socket. Most DSLR cameras have these features built in. I used my Canon Rebel XTi with a Canon 100mm f2.0 lens. This lens is a fixed focal length, and I would recommend using a zoom lens 18 – 55 mm. Why? Because I would have more variety in my shots had I been able to zoom in and out. However, this is what I had to work with.

photograph of fireworks

You will also need a heavy tripod. I’m not talking about some dinky light weight tripod that’s going to blow around in the wind. Keeping the camera steady is of the utmost importance. I recommend a Manfrotto Tripod, but any heavy weight tripod will do.

fireworks picture

You should also pick up a shutter release. You will be using long time exposures and there is always a danger of moving the camera when you depress the shutter. I used my Canon RS60-E3 shutter release. Also, take along a flashlight to see the settings on your camera.

fireworks in Medicine Hat

Camera Settings:

Set your camera to manual focus. I used auto focus and there where a few incidences where I couldn’t fire the camera because the camera didn’t know what to focus on. Set your ISO to 100. Years ago, When I photographed fire works for the first time, I was thinking darkness – use a high speed film. But fire works are really bright, like the sun. My first attempt at fireworks was a disaster because I overexposed everything.

Your camera should be set to manual mode and set your aperture to the highest setting. These shots were all taken at f22. Vary your exposure times between 15 second and 30 seconds. If you keep your shutter open too long, you actually might get too many rockets into the shot and it just ends up being a mash up of light. Mind you that can give some interesting abstracts.

The hardest part about fireworks photography is to anticipate where the next fire cracker will go off. There is no way to know if the rocket is going to be a low trajectory or high. Do you shoot vertical or horizontal? My recommendation is to shoot as many pictures as possible because you are going to have a lot of rejects. If you shoot lots of pictures, you will get a few keepers. Good luck in your fireworks photography and happy Canada Day or Independence Day!



fireworks image


grande finale fireworks

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