How to Take the Best Firework Photos: Snap the most dazzling firework pictures in 2019
Taking photos of fireworks can be a challenge for even the most experienced of snappers, so if you’re looking to capture their explosive majesty, read on to learn how to take the best photos of fireworks.
Whether you’re in possession of a DSLR camera, you’re relying on the smartphone in your pocket or you’re shooting on something in between, here are the fundamental steps and tips to help you capture eye-catching pyrotechnics in 2019.
Before you start shooting…
Find your spot
If you’re going to be attending a fireworks display, consider getting there early so you can find the best spot to capture the action. Higher ground is usually better.
Consider your surroundings and the backdrop
Fireworks are beautiful in their own right but setting them against more than just a black sky can elevate your images even further. Nearby buildings, trees and bodies of water will pick up the hues of the fireworks above them and what’s more, they’ll help provide a sense of scale for your snaps.
How to take pictures of fireworks with a camera
A fully-fledged camera and a sturdy tripod are undoubtedly the best way to ensure blur and fuzz-free photography, especially in situations with low ambient light or long-exposure shooting may be on the cards.
Strong and stable
The stronger and sturdier the tripod, the better. The more stable a foundation you can shoot from, the easier it’ll be to capture shake-free images of those colourful metal compounds streaking through the night sky.
Use a remote or timed shutter
Taking the idea of removing as much shake from the equation even further, keeping your hands off the camera as much as possible is another smart technique to help capture crisp photographs. Almost any modern camera should have some sort of timed shutter control, letting you press the shutter button and then step away a few seconds before the camera actually takes a picture.
Even better is the option of a remote shutter. These are usually after-market accessories for most cameras and come in both wired and wireless forms so you can still snap at the perfect moment, without having to touch your actual camera setup.
Picking the right lens
If you’re shooting with a camera that supports interchangeable lenses then you afford yourself far more flexibility when it comes to capturing fireworks.
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You might want to consider shooting with a longer lens if the display further away, or conversely, a wide-angle lens is better suited to setups where you’re far closer to the action. You might want to consider using a zoom lens to cover both shooting types (and anything in between) as you can then more readily capture wide and close-up images while positioned at a distance.
Lock down focus
As an extension of the last point, make sure to lock down focus so that you can concentrate on altering other camera settings when a display is underway
Manual or mode?
Despite what you might think, you don’t need to capture fireworks using long-exposure photography as although the scene is usually dark, the fireworks themselves are actually sources of very bright light.
If you choose to shoot in manual, start with a low ISO of around 100/200 and an aperture of around f/11. If possible, test your settings with suitable light sources, such as a sparkler, positioned back from the camera first and adjust accordingly, or get the settings right near the start of the display so that you know you’re capturing great stuff by the time you reach the finale.
Provided other settings like aperture and ISO are small/low enough respectively, long-exposure photography can be used to capture the full trajectory and pattern of each firework as it’s set off, or as a means of consolidating multiple explosions into a single image.
DSLRs and other more advanced cameras have something called ‘bulb’ mode (or an equivalent) that lets you hold the shutter open for as long as it’s pressed, helping you capture multiple fireworks at a time. Alternatively, many compact cameras feature various scene modes, with some even sporting a dedicated ‘fireworks’ mode, which you should consider using to help your camera automatically choose the ideal settings for the situation.
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Upping the quality
Make sure to set your camera to the highest quality possible (ideally RAW or an equivalent) so that there’s as much image data as possible on-hand should you wish to tweak your images after the fact, whether it’s to boost the saturation or the fireworks themselves or minimise any noise or grain your camera may have picked up within the night sky.
While cameras typically shoot in landscape, consider shooting fireworks in portrait. Their vertical trajectory is a great fit for a narrower, taller image.
There’s zero need to use your camera’s flash when shooting fireworks, however, depending on the type of camera you’re using, it might read the darkness of the scene and choose to automatically enable the flash, which isn’t helpful. Check to make sure your camera’s flash is completely disabled before shooting.
How to take pictures of fireworks without a tripod
Everything already covered still stands but sometimes bringing a tripod with you isn’t suitable or perhaps you simply don’t own one. If either is true, then the simple fix is to find a worthwhile alternative.
So long as you can place or prop your camera up against something strong and stable, and still have access to its controls and shutter, you should still be able to capture some great firework photography.
How to take pictures of fireworks using your phone
With the focus on photography that many phones now possess, there’s every chance that handset in your pocket may be the only camera you carry with you on NYE. If so, there are plenty of tricks you can use to leverage the compact hardware on hand and still land some cracking fireworks photos.
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Third-party camera apps
While some of the features we’ve already mentioned may not be part of your phone’s native camera repertoire, there are plenty of apps to help unlock some of the more advanced techniques covered. Undoubtedly more of a challenge for iPhones than Android devices, iOS users might want to consider a third-party camera app that facilitates manual control too.
Stable and hands-off
Beyond that, as with a traditional camera, using a tripod or a stable base is still highly recommended. Remote shutters are commonplace on smartphone cameras and should definitely be used where possible too. In specific cases, as on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, its connected S Pen stylus also grants you the option of remote shutter control.
Manual shooting gives you control over everything from ISO to shutter speed and in some cases, aperture (although, with the exception of Samsung’s 2018 flagship phones, aperture adjustment is strictly a digital affair).
Like some compact cameras, many phones now integrate AI-enhanced scene detection which can also help automate the process of selecting the right options for the situation; depending on your phone, these may include settings specifically for fireworks.
Huawei’s and Honor’s phones also have more creative shootings modes, such as ‘light painting’ that can be used to capture more artistic fireworks photos that would be harder to replicate using a compact camera or DSLR.
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Flash and quality
Once again, make sure that your phone’s flash is set to ‘off’ and that capture quality is as high as possible – some phones do support RAW capture.
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