How to Shoot Fireworks | Tips Reviewed

November is the month of light. Many festivals take place during this time of the year. Fireworks can be seen across the country almost every weekend. To capture these moments of light and festivity may be tricky.

After having reviewed various tips online, I attempted to take a shot and do my own fireworks photography during the Fireworks at Sea event in Weston-Super-Mare. The final gallery can be viewed by clicking here. The fireworks were due to start at 7pm, so I arrived earlier at 6:30 in order to take a better spot on the Grand Pier.

1. Use a Tripod - I packed my tripod with to experiment with long exposure.
+ Tripod really helps when you try to take images at night time, when it is essential to have long exposure without increasing the ISO.
- Although it is essential to have a tripod, it became the reason of many unsuccessful images due to the fact that it was a busy and crowded event. There were people surrounded by me, occasionally kicking the tripod legs as they were extended into the sides. As a result, some of the images were not in focus due to the camera shake. Therefore, when photographing fireworks, it is best to find alternative uncrowdedlocations.

Crowded event | camera shake on tripod during long exposure

2. Remote Release - It is good idea to have a remote release not to get any additional camera shake while pressing the button. Alternatively, you can put the camera on a 2 second timer, but the decision when to release the shutter should be made in advance, once the big fireworks are about to rocket into the sky.

3. ISO. I work in Manual mode. Therefore, set every parameter separately. It is best to set ISO low - 100-200 that way to keep the noise down. Also, if you keep the ISO more than 400, then you will not be able to achieve a long exposure shot without an image becoming over exposed.

3. Aperture. To keep all the firework in focus, it is best to have narrow aperture anywhere between f5.6 - f16. This will depend on how long the exposure is and what effect you try to achieve.

4. Focusing. It is quite hard to focus when the object is moving and constantly changing. Therefore, it is essential to switch the auto focus off and find your focus ahead of time using the manual focus. Prior to the fireworks try and establish where the fireworks will be shooting from and take a test shot. When the fireworks begin, take a test shot and check whether you are happy with the result.

5. Shutter Speed. Finally, I believe shutter speed is the most important aspect to consider. To keep low ISO and therefore have no noise on the photos, it is important to have long exposure, anywhere between 5-20 seconds. It however, depends what effect you would like to achieve with the final images. There are some types of fireworks, such as fairy dust like effect, which I felt were not represented properly on the photographs and blurred their overall effect. In that case I would much rather prefer having a faster shutter speed to represent the sparkling motion of the light, which means I would also need to increase ISO.

6. Experiment. The following images represent my experimental practice of the fireworks by changing various parameters of ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

Equipment used: Canon 5D mk iii + 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens

Test shots prior to the fireworks

Test shot prior to the firework 1 | 6.0 sec at f/7.1, ISO 320, 24mm

Test shot pitot to the fireworks 2 | 6.0 sec at f/6.3, ISO 320, 24mm

Shutter speed test shots

After having set the camera’s aperture to f/11 and ISO 100, I was experimenting with various shutter speeds.

 Fireworks 1 |  0.8 sec  at f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

Fireworks 1 | 0.8 sec at f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

Fireworks 2 | 2.5 sec at f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

 Fireworks 3 |  3.4 sec  at f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

Fireworks 3 | 3.4 sec at f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

Fireworks 4 | 5.2 sec at f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

Fireworks 5 | 6.6 sec at f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

The best exposure time, I find, is between 3-5 seconds. If the exposure is longer, the image becomes overexposed and more smoke is visible. If exposure is less than 3 seconds, then there is not enough lighting and firework shape visible within the frame.

Fairy dust like fireworks

The final fireworks had a special fairy dust effect which did not get represented with the use of a long exposure. Therefore, I have tested other setting in order to demonstrate the light and glittery effect of the fireworks.

Fairy dust wireworks | 2.3 sec at f/9.0, ISO 160

Fairy dust wireworks | 1/5 sec at f/7.1, ISO 800

 Fairy dust wireworks | 1/10 sec at f/7.1, ISO 800

Fairy dust wireworks | 1/10 sec at f/7.1, ISO 800