Windjammer Days as well as the 4th of July means the skies will be filled with fireworks again. The displays can be dazzling and can make for a wonderful subject to photograph. Here is what you will need to make your best shot of fireworks.
For equipment you’ll want a tripod to keep your camera steady, a shutter release cable and, of course, your camera with a fully charged battery and a formatted memory card. A flashlight can be useful to see camera settings since you will be in the dark.
Some cameras have a Fireworks scene mode that is worth trying – but if you really want to get the best results try these tips:
You need to set your camera for a long exposure – Bulb mode is preferred where the shutter can be held open to collect the light for as long as you push the shutter release button. If your camera does not have Bulb mode, set it to manual mode and dial in a shutter time of about 4 to 10 seconds.
Next you’ll need to set the aperture so you capture the right amount of light. We do not need a big lens aperture or lower number f/stop – in fact, depending on how far away you are to the fireworks, you will want to start around f/11 and adjust slightly more or less as needed.
Because you are shooting a source of light, a high sensitivity or ISO is not needed - setting the ISO to 200 or even a little lower will do well to capture those bright bursts.
And for the white balance – the operative word in Fireworks is “fire” so choose a setting that is low in color temperature – Incandescent or Tungsten mode will give you that royal blue sky and let you capture all the beautiful colors that you see with fireworks.
Manual focusing your camera will be your best bet as most auto focus systems get confused at night and you’ll end up missing the shot as your camera may refuse to take the picture. If your lens has Image Stabilization or Vibration Resistance, you will want to disable it since your camera will already be on a stable tripod. And shooting in Camera RAW mode is always recommended so you can later make exposure adjustments as needed.
When you see the firework shoot into the sky, click open the shutter and leave it open until the display ends a few seconds later. It takes a little experimentation to get the timing right to capture the bursts. For the Grand Finale, you will want to stop down the aperture more as there will be a lot of light - try taking pictures in different intervals to capture the myriad of light in the sky.
Have fun, be safe and here’s hoping that you make your “Best Shot of Fireworks” this summer!
Mike Leonard worked professionally in television for 36+ years and is now immersed entirely in photography offering photography instruction, cruises and services including Photoshop classes for the public and corporate clients. Mike is again hosting the Windjammer Days Photography cruise on the Balmy Days on June 27 and will be hosting a Sunrise Lighthouse cruise in the area in September. His website to see more is www.phototourismbymike.com
This article was first published in June 2018