Fireworks can be set off either as a single shot or in a barrage. Here are some expert tips on how to capture single-shot fireworks in a way that brings out their beautiful shapes. (Reported by Gensaku Izumiya)
Press the shutter when you hear the boom and release it only when the firework effect fades
Points to note when photographing single-shot fireworks
- Observe the first firework to check how high it shoots up and its size.
- Set your camera on a tripod, and use a remote switch to release the shutter.
- Open the shutter as soon as you hear the boom, then close it when the firework effect fades.
- Shoot in the vertical position to capture the entire firework in all its beauty.
× Avoid shooting when there is a lot of smoke around.
× Dust from the fireworks release may scatter around the venue, so wipe your lens from time to time.
EOS 5DS/ EF11-24mm f/4L USM/ 14mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 9 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: 3,064K
Location: Nagano Ebisu-ko Fireworks Festival (2016)
When to release the shutter?
As a guide, set the aperture to f/11-16 and the shutter speed to 10 seconds initially before releasing the shutter.
1: Press the release button when you hear the sound of a firework being shot up into the air
2: Release the button when the firework effect fades
Observe the first firework
If fireworks of the same type are being launched consecutively, do not photograph the first one. Instead, observe it so you can get an idea of how high it shoots into the sky, and the amount of time that passes from the moment the firework explodes until it fades away completely. Once you have ascertained the position, adjust the framing and try actually photographing the second and subsequent fireworks.
Here I will introduce 4 techniques for taking beautiful shots of fireworks one after another.
Tip 1: Your shutter speed affects the shape of the fireworks
In standard photography, the exposure is determined by the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO speed. However, for fireworks, you need to consider the shutter speed when capturing the shape of the fireworks. Set the exposure mode to "Bulb", and leave the shutter open until the firework has fully opened.
Both of the photos below were taken using f/11 and ISO 100. However, the shape appears different because they were shot with different shutter speeds.
○ Firework effect with a beautiful shape
× Firework effects (shape not as beautiful)
Tip 2: The brightness of the fireworks is determined by the aperture and ISO speed
Use the aperture and ISO speed to adjust the brightness of the fireworks. To minimize noise, try setting a low ISO speed of ISO 100, and an aperture of f/11-16. If the image is too bright, narrow the aperture to around f/22. Looking at the core of the firework in the photo, you can see that when f/11 was used, the image was just right. However, with f/8, the image is overexposed with the whites blown out, while the image is too dark with f/22.
○ The right amount of brightness
×Too bright (Note the blowout in the centre)
Tip 3: Try shooting at a slightly wider angle and then crop
When composing single-shot fireworks, a basic rule is to fit the entire firework effect, from the time it is launched until it fades away, inside the frame. Try shooting at a wider angle, as the firework might be larger than what you expected, or may extend a long way. As a guide, shoot at around 24mm, and then crop the shot.
Tip 4: Align the focus of the fireworks with their launching location
If you can, align the focus with the “barrels” at the location where the fireworks are launched from. When it gets dark you will not be able to see the location, so focus your camera while it is still bright outside. After setting MF to infinity (∞), adjust the focus in Live View. When the focus has been adjusted, fix the adjusting ring in position with tape.
For more information on shooting techniques for fireworks, see the following articles.
2 Everyday Items That Could Transform Your Photos
Welcoming the New Year with Colourful Fireworks at Ancol, Indonesia
Photographing Fireworks: A Tutorial
How to Capture Artistic Handheld Shots of Firework Displays!
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Born in Akita in 1959, photographing fireworks has been a lifelong passion for Izumiya. He mainly photographs landscapes, commercials, people, goods, and cooking, and creates photos of fire and water. A member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society.