How To Take Better Pictures Of Fireworks

If you’re planning on snapping some pictures of fireworks this weekend, you may want to take a look at these tips from Consumer Reports first. While CR’s tips may seem most applicable to DSLRs, it’s possible to get decent fireworks shots with “advanced” compacts. The key: manual controls. Or you can just set the camera to its built in fireworks mode, and be done with it.

For the most part, shooting fireworks is about keeping the lens open long enough, keeping the camera stable, and hoping for the best. Or as CR puts it:

Because fireworks are bright and dynamic, you may need to take a few shots to determine the best speed. If you close the shutter too quickly, you’ll miss the spheres, rings, and other formations. Leave it open too long and you’ll overexpose. For starters, set the speed to several seconds and, for each shot, press the shutter release just before the fireworks explode. Based on the results of each shot, fine tune the speed. …

Mounting the camera on a tripod is best, but if you can’t do that, seat it on something stable, such as a fence. With an advanced camera, such as an SLR, you can further reduce the chances of camera shake by using a remote release to trigger the shutter. Or, if you can seat the camera without having to hold it, try its self-timer, which eliminates having to press the shutter.

Another good piece of advice: “If possible, stay upwind of the fireworks or your shots may be ruined by smoke.” You may want to follow that tip even if you opt to leave the camera at home.

Tips for photographing fireworks on this Fourth [Consumer Reports Electronics]

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  1. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:
  2. Geekybiker says:

    Iso 100, tripod and bulb mode with a remote trigger. Hold the button open as long as you like. You can capture several shots on one frame even if they are doing one at a time this way. Adjust the ISO if the fireworks are too dark. I’d regularly have the shutter open 10-15 seconds.

  3. Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

    Tip #1: If the flash goes off, you’re doing it wrong.

    Watching the symphony of flashbulbs tomorrow tonight will be half the fun.

    • thisistobehelpful says:

      If you take a picture of someone with the background as fireworks with a slow shutter speed it can still work.

  4. Razor512 says:

    If you are a point and shoot cam user, then get a modded firmware such as chdk

    it allows unlimited shooting so you can for example have the camera be set to ISO 80, then using a custom script, have it take multiple 5 second exposures

    http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK

    For DSLR users, make sure you are using a fast lens and if you really want to get good results, get a netbook and set up remote shooting then take multiple 2 second+ exposures (play with the length to capture the entire explosion)

    Always use the lowest ISO possible as night shooting + long exposure will increase image noise and you want to limit your use of noise reduction programs as they will also remove fine details.

  5. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    Awww..that’s my fireworks picture. I’m totally printing this out and sticking it on the fridge.

    I took a lot of pics that night and deleted most of them. Fireworks are very tricky to take pictures of. As I recall, there was a lot of smoke, which obscured the fireworks in most of the pics.

  6. matt314159 says:

    I had an on-the-fly session teaching myself last year, and it came out pretty decent. Was both fun and challenging.

    I used Manual focus (a must, and make sure you get it RIGHT or you’ll ruin all the pictures) ISO 100, f/9.0, and 15 second exposures, and a black card to place back in front of the lens in between bursts (to minimize ambient light). I’d wait till it got up, pull the card out of the way, let the burst take its course, and put the card back in front of the lens.

    If I had a trigger release I would have preferred that and used bulb mode, but 15 seconds kept it open long enough to get a couple bursts in.

    Here’s a link to the slideshow, if anyone cares.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjaustin/sets/72157622290088169/show/with/3936535912/

    I think they came out pretty well, you can see the exif data if you want more details about the camera settings for any given shot, but I think what I posted above was generally what I used for the whole thing.

    • Dead Wrestlers Society says:

      that’s pretty cool. Many of the pics have a softer look to them. I love the first one, it looks like 3 flowers in the sky.

    • Geekybiker says:

      You’re either on a flimsy tripod and the wind is getting it, or touching it with the card is causing vibrations. Your lit ground objects regularly have streaks and that shouldn’t be happening. Bulb mode on a sturdy tripod is really the way to go.

      • matt314159 says:

        it was windy. I was pretty pleased with them, considering it was my first try. Nothing I’d frame or anything, but it was fun learning. Also I oversharpened a lot of them in the raw editor, so you can see ringing and stuff.

  7. silas says:

    I f you have a decent movie mode,spare memory cards, and a tripod,you can still enjoy family,friends,and fireworks.
    Then later take snapshots at home,and fine tune with your favorite program.

  8. thisistobehelpful says:

    They also make good bokeh. I kinda like my crappy fireworks shots since I never ever freaking bring a tripod.

  9. Atsumi says:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/49358788@N05/ – has a few I took. I think I did okay for never ever doing fireworks before. :)