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Fool On The Hill » Blog Archive » Photographing Fireworks

I just had my first experience shooting fireworks. I am very pleased with the results. This may seem daunting, but following a few simple tips will yield some great results. I started out searching the web for some basic exposure settings for fireworks. There are loads of pages to choose from. Here is where I started –

  • You need a tripod
  • You need a cable release
  • You need to shoot on full manual (including focus)
  • Aperture – start with f11 and see how that does, adjust to suit
  • Shutter – you need to shoot on the bulb setting (stays open as long as you press the button)

Fireworks are bright and you can use your slow outdoor zoom lenses (Yippee!). I suggest bringing a few different focal lengths. It’s hard to gauge how much zoom you may need. Fireworks are big. I started with a 70-300mm zoom and quickly switched to a 28-135mm zoom when I couldn’t zoom out enough. Fireworks are shot all over the sky so I kept my tripod head fairly loose. I would watch the shell lifting off and anticipate where it would blow. You need to move the camera quickly and then get your hands off to avoid shake. It’s very much trial and error, but fortunately they shoot a lot of fireworks. I mentioned manual focus above. It’s very important to switch off your auto-focus. Use the first few explosions to get your focus set and then leave it alone. Shooting at f11 will keep everything in focus for you. I discovered how important this is the hard way. When I switched lenses I still had the second lens set for auto focus. I’d press the shutter and nothing would happen for a few seconds and then the camera would take the shot after the shell had exploded. It couldn’t focus in the dark until the shell blew. Here are some of my shots from the Oak Bluffs, Mass annual fireworks –

Oak Bluffs Fireworks

Oak Bluffs Fireworks

Oak Bluffs Fireworks

Oak Bluffs Fireworks

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