Tips for Shooting Firework Photos: DSLR Edition

One big challenge even some of the most seasoned photographers face is capturing the beauty of fireworks. I know people who have been shooting for far longer than I have who come up to me and ask me what the secret is to getting great firework shots. Now, I’m no expert but I’ll gladly give you some tips on how to get great firework shots!

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Before you do anything with your camera you need a location, and in order to get the perfect location you first need to know where the fireworks are going to be fired from. The good news is that generally town and city officials fire them from the same place every year. In Newport, for example, the fireworks are shot off from the tip of Gardner Park. One crucial part of photographing fireworks that many people don’t realize is that in order to make an impact with your photo you need to have something else in your photo aside from just the firework. For example take a look at this photo:

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It’s okay, right? The fireworks look fairly nice but there’s nothing that really makes it pop. Now how about this photo:

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How much better is the second photo than the first? In my eyes it’s HEAPS better, and that is only because there is something else to look at aside from the fireworks. The other things in the photo give the fireworks true size, which really makes an impact. Remember: Location is key!

YOUR CAMERA

DSLR cameras are great because they allow you to have so much control! For great firework photos you’ll need a few things:

  • Tripod
  • Shutter release (either cabled or wireless)
  • Small flashlight

It is virtually impossible to take great photos of fireworks without a tripod simply because in order to get the sweeping shots where the fireworks light up the sky you need to leave your shutter open for at least a couple of seconds.

Set your camera to “BULB” mode – all DSLR cameras have one, check your instruction manual to find out how to access yours. BULB basically means that YOU control how long the shutter is open for. When you click the shutter release the shutter opens and doesn’t close until you click the shutter release again. Having a shutter release, either cabled or wireless, is key because even the act of depressing the shutter on your camera can cause it to shake which will mess up your firework photos.

This picture gives you a good idea of what happens when you leave the shutter open:

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See that bright red line at the bottom of the picture? Any guesses as to what it is? It’s a car! As I took the photo a car zoomed past and since the shutter was open the camera captured the whole thing. You can even see the light on the bottom which was from the headlights. If I had not used a shutter release I would have had one very shaky picture! And why the flashlight? You’ll be changing settings in the dark, so a small flashlight can definitely help! I also highly recommend bug spray!! LOL

SHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT!

The key to getting great firework shots? Shoot constantly! I have hundreds of photos to cull through when I return home from a fireworks display, and when you think about the fact that the average fireworks show is under 20 minutes you can really get an idea of how many pictures I take in a minute! It’s important to remember that a lot of firework shooting is trial and error. Setting yourself up in the right location and bringing the right gear, while also knowing how to use your camera correctly, is important, but getting the right shot truly is a little bit of luck as well. Knowing when to open and close the shutter takes tons of practice and I’ll be the first person to tell you that not all of my firework photos are frame-worthy. I will, however, tell you that the finale is never my favorite. Yes, there are tons of fireworks going off but fire creates smoke which is when you get this:

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See the smoke at the bottom of the picture? You can even see some smoke inside the fireworks themselves. I’m always very careful when I shoot the finale because I much prefer little to no smoke in my shots.

I hope these tips helped a little, and if you have a specific question feel free to email me or leave me a message and I’ll do my best to help you out! I’d love to see what firework photos you get this year! Head on over to my Facebook Page after the 4th and post some of your best so that I can see please!!

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