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Shutter Speed Tips: How to Capture an Entire Series of Fireworks in the Same Frame

Timing is everything when it comes to capturing beautiful shots of fireworks launched continuously in sequence, as the shutter has to be released exactly the right moment. Let’s take a look at some examples to find out how to determine the best shutter speed for capturing such a scene. (Reported by Gensaku Izumiya)

A series of fireworks captured in the same frame

EOS 5DS/ EF11-24mm f/4L USM/ FL: 17mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 15 sec)/ ISO 100/WB: Auto

 

Press the shutter button when the fireworks are launched into the sky, and release it when the fireworks bloom open

Fireworks in order of launch

In order to know when to press the shutter, you need to understand how the fireworks are launched into the sky and what kind of patterns they will form once they burst. Firstly, remember how the first firework appears, and release the shutter once that firework is launched into the sky. (This article has more details on analysing fireworks.)

 

So what is the appropriate shutter speed?

For photographing multiple bursts of fireworks effects released consecutively, such as in this example, using an exposure of 1 second will usually only allow you to capture the first firework effect ((1) in the above image). So how do you capture the fireworks that are launched after that, all in the same frame ((2) and (3) in the above image)? For that, you will have to think of how long you will need to keep your shutter open in order to capture a beautiful image of the third firework at full burst.

From my experience, shutter speeds of 5 and 10 seconds will usually only allow you capture up to the second firework. In order to capture the third firework, you would need to keep the shutter open for a little longer. The most appropriate speed is usually 15 to 20 seconds, with the actual speed depending on the type of firework. For the scene in the top image, 15 seconds was best. When I tried a shutter speed of 20 seconds, the fireworks were already starting to droop downwards, and appeared heavy. As a rule of thumb, try to release the button the instant the firework fully bursts open into a beautiful pattern.

For more information on the principles of shutter speed, read:
Camera Basics #2: Shutter Speed
 

1 sec

Failed fireworks shot (1 sec)

EOS 5DS/ EF11-24mm f/4L USM/ FL: 17mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

5 sec

Failed fireworks shot (5 sec)

EOS 5DS/ EF11-24mm f/4L USM/ FL: 17mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 5sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

10 sec

Failed fireworks shot (10 sec)

EOS 5DS/ EF11-24mm f/4L USM/ FL: 17mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 10sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

15 sec - Best shot

Successful fireworks shot (15 sec)

EOS 5DS/ EF11-24mm f/4L USM/ FL: 17mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 15sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

20 sec

Failed fireworks shot (20 sec)

EOS 5DS/ EF11-24mm f/4L USM/ FL: 17mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 20sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Failed shot: If the shutter release timing is too slow, the firework’s pattern will not be retained

Failed fireworks shot (shutter speed too slow)

EOS 5DS/ EF11-24mm f/4L USM/ FL: 17mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 3.9sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

This photo was taken using Bulb Mode, so the shutter remains open. When the main firework has a weeping willow effect, as in this case, the basic rule of thumb is to release the shutter when the firework has opened. If the timing of release is too early, not all of the fireworks will be captured. If too late, the firework’s shape will not be retained.

 

Click here for more articles on photographing fireworks

 


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Gensaku Izumiya

Gensaku Izumiya

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.