Fourth of July is coming up, depending on when you read this I suppose, and one of the mainstays of this holiday is the fireworks display. Even if you're reading this and July 4th has already come to pass, there's probably another holiday or event coming up where fireworks are involved. I've had various people in the past ask me how to take kick ass fireworks photos, so I figured I'd make a video tutorial showing you how. Don't worry, if you don't feel like watching the video, then keep on reading. :)
The key to awesome fireworks photos is really long exposures. There's a few things you need gear wise, but you can make do with a relatively simple (and cheap) setup. Other than your camera, the most important thing you'll need is a tripod. If you don't have a tripod, that's okay, just find a way to stabilize your camera somehow. Maybe rest it on a wall or fence of some sort or even lay your camera on the ground (gasp!) and point upwards towards the fireworks display. The more stable the better and you can even use those shitty tripods you get at best buy for like $30 and they'll do just fine... As long as there aren't any hurricane type winds or anything :P.
Ninety percent of the battle comes from preplanning and the next bit of gear is part of that. Your lens choice is crucial not so much for how "fast" or wide open the aperture can get, but rather what focal length you choose to use. If you're trying to incorporate the scenery like that Niagara Falls shot above, then it be in your best interest to bring a wide angle lens along. If you're only looking to shoot fireworks on a black background in the sky, a longer lens might be more beneficial instead. If you don't know what the place looks like you're going to yet, then make sure you bring lenses along with a wide array of focal lengths just to make sure you're covered. If you have a mega zoom then even better. While the better the lens you use, the better the photos will turn out, you can still take sweet photos with your kit lens since you won't be needing a fast lens.
The only other piece of gear that matters is getting a cable release or an intervalometer. Now you can skip this if you'd like and just use the self timer on your camera set to a two second delay and use your finger for the shutter. You could also go into your settings and turn on mirror lock up with you feel the need to, but really it all comes down to the less you touch your camera the better. The less movement involved while the photo is being taken, the less likely you'll end up slightly blaring your photos and then you just got chaotic, abstract art (Ha).
Now that your camera is all set up physically, lets get to the settings. You can shoot in shutter priority if you'd like or manual mode if you want some more control, but the key is having control over the shutter speed over anything else. You'll want a longer shutter speed, anywhere from a half of a second and longer, to give the fireworks that cool light trail look to them. If you're in manual mode then set the ISO to the lowest setting you can. The more colorful noise introduced into the exposure, the worse your colorful fireworks are gonna look.
Last thing I wanna mention is to pay attention to your environment before the fireworks begin. Pick a location where there won't be any interference in front of the fireworks display. The above photo has these black lines going through the middle of them because, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was actually shooting through some telephone wires. I couldn't see the wires because the sky was black and I didn't notice it until after I got home and looked at them on a bigger screen. Just something to watch out for. That's it, just press the shutter and enjoy the show ^_^.
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