This time of year questions fill my inbox regarding fireworks photography. It’s really a loaded question as many settings and recommendations are situational. However, as an effort of self preservation I’m posting some general guidelines that should give you good results in a variety of situations if you are using a DSLR or compact camera that allows you to adjust your settings manually (manual mode).
Fireworks Photography Tips
- Select a good vantage point where you can shoot wide to get other environmental elements in the shot as well as zoom in to get dramatic shots of the bursts.
- Use a tripod for sure.
- Get a mix of landscape and portrait orientations
- A zoom lens like 28mm to 70mm will give you good variety and flexibility.
- Use a cable release or wireless remote to trigger.
- Shoot the highest quality file you can. RAW is ideal.
- Manual focus set to infinity as your camera will have difficulty in autofocus mode.
- Shoot in Manual Mode with these settings as a general guide:
• Low ISO like 100 or 200
• Auto white balance
• Midrange aperture like f/5.6 to f/11.
Slow shutter speed like 3 to 5 sec (you’ll need to experiment) OR BETTER USE Bulb Mode and expose for the entire burst and vary your durations.
Remember these settings are only a guide as they will depend on your location and how much ambient light you have, the fireworks being presented to you (which will change with every launch and your desired composition and outcome.
You’ll have the highest amount of good images when you shoot both in capture in Raw mode and shoot using Bulb (B) in lieu of pre-selecting a specific shutter speed like 2 or 3 seconds.
A couple of minor other considerations to note is that the first fireworks shot will be your best opportunity as the sky will be the most clear of smoke. Note the wind and if your vantage point can be upwind rather than downwind you will have a higher amount of good images as light reflects off the smoke giving you less contrast. Fireworks always look better against a very black sky.
Shooting Fireworks with your iPhone
It is possible to get some good grabs of fireworks with your iPhone, but remember it is a phone first and a camera second. I typically find my iPhone (or any smart phone for that matter) a really good camera when shooting in optimal lighting conditions.
- Stabilize your phone on a sturdy object.
- Tap your screen to focus and expose of the burst
- Bump your contrast up or black point when you edit the photo
- Saturate to taste…