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Photographing Fireworks on New Years Eve

Originally posted on The Idea Room

Have you said “no” to Auto?  If not, these tips might not be so helpful, or maybe it will help you get off of that little green box;)

{Source} Fireworks with reflection in the water

These images were not taken by me.  When I first wrote this post, we were under a burn ban in Texas. I’m not sure if our rain lately will allow us to do fireworks or not this New Years. We shall see…. I can still offer you tips with images I found online with their sources.

#1 Use a tripod. To capture evening light, you need to leave your camera shutter open for at least a few seconds, and no matter how still we think we are, we move, and then the image moves. It is helpful to have a remote to trigger the shutter on that tripod, because when you press the shutter, it will move, but you can still try this without a remote. Your camera timer is an alternative, but it would be tricky to time that, but with a big firework display, it could work.

{Source} Fireworks from above, capturing the scene of the land below (with a little silhouette)

#2 Manual focus. This is something I don’t often do because of vision issues, but in this case, you can’t use the cameras focus when the fireworks go off because a) they are too fleeting and b) with your shutter open a few seconds and multiple fireworks going off, the focal point will keep changing. The auto abilities will go haywire and you’ll keep missing the shot. You will need to look for something in the distance to focus on, or just focus on the open sky. You will likely be able to set the focus once and not need to change it during the fireworks, so set that before the show begins.

{Source} Double firewworks here! For this affect, you will need a constant light source on the couple while using the settings I have suggested for the fireworks behind.

#3 Set your ISO–Though you are shooting into a dark sky, fireworks are pretty bright, so shooting at ISO 100 works well, and will produce the least amount of grain as well.

{Source} Awesome silhouette of people watching fireworks in the distance off of a pier on the water.
#4 Set your Aperture–Shooting at a low aperture (higher number) is ideal. Something like f/8 or f/11 would work as a good place to start, and will have the landscape in focus.

{Source} I love the skyline in this shot. This shutter was longer because you can see the falling fireworks dragging downward.

#5 Set your Shutter Speed–Last but certainly not least, how long to keep your shutter open. You will have to experiement a little, and it depends on the effect you are going for. At least 1 second (1″), but up to 4 seconds (4″) I would try. The shorter amount (1 second) will be crisp lines while the longer (4 seconds) will produce the streaks more. Like when you are using sparklers to “draw” something.

{Source} I have one of these that I can’t seem to access on my external hard drive, but you gotta try to hold still while “drawing” with the sparkler in the air.
 {Source} This is shooting up to the sky, just capturing the fireworks, which is nice to fill the frame with them.

P.S. Don’t use your pop up flash.

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  1. Can’t wait to try the shapes with sparklers this weekend!

  2. Great pics! I especially like the first one whit those three colors in the water shining

    Greetings from Europe/Austria/Vienna