©Copyright Deborah M. Zajac, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Independence Day in the United States is today. On July 4th families and friends will get together to celebrate this holiday. Plans are being set in motion for pick-up games of baseball, volleyball, or swimming. There will be picnics, and barbecues/grills will be fired up. Dads all over will be grilling hot dogs, and burgers, watermelons will be split, seed spitting contests will ensue, and the colors of the day will be Red, White, and Blue.
When the sun drops beyond the horizon the celebrating doesn’t stop. Countless cities and towns will put on a great show of fireworks, and many families and friends will be gathered in their favorite viewing spot to watch the show, and many of us want to photograph them.
Settings for image above: f/10, iso 200, 14seconds-DSLR lens 18-200mm on a tripod
With just about any camera you can photograph fireworks. I’ll share some tips for getting the most out of your DSLR or compact camera.
If you have a compact or Point and Shoot you might have a “fireworks” scene mode that you can summon either on the dial, or in the menu. Adding + 1 or +2 to Exposure Compensation will give you a longer shutter speed to add more colors, and longer fireworks trails. Then find something to stabilize your camera. Most likely your shutter speed will be slow so, to avoid any blur you’ll need to have a solid base for your camera that doesn’t move while the shutter is released. A tripod is best, but a table, rock, ledge, or car hood works in a pinch.
Be sure to turn your flash off!
Night mode with Exposure compensation set to +1 or +2 to slow down the shutter will work pretty good too. If you don’t know how to set that you’ll need your user manual.
Settings image above: f/8, ISO 3200, 1/4s, 35mm f/2 lens. Holding my DSLR over my head and shooting.
Using a SmartPhone- Video is the best way to shoot the fireworks when using a cell phone. You can grab stills from your video. If you shoot a Time-lapse using your cell phone use a tripod!
Using a DSLR:
You’ll need your tripod, I recommend a cable release, or remote release, and full manual settings.
If you want foreground select a wide angle lens. On a Full Frame camera 24mm to 35mm in portrait orientation should be wide enough.
If using a Crop Sensor camera something in the range of 16mm to 18mm would be equivalent.
In Manual Priority choose an Aperture of F/8 to F/11, ISO 200, and a shutter speed of 8 seconds- you many need longer or shorter depending on the speed of launches, but 8 seconds is a real good place to start.
If you want just the fireworks in the sky select a lens with a range of 70-200mm. If you have a 24-120mm, or super zoom like an 18-200mm lens that may be all you need for the night.
Once you have your camera set up with the settings dialed in you’re ready for the first launch. If you got to your location early you can sit back and wait. I hope you’ve packed something to eat! 😀
Once the sun goes down get ready for some fun! But, first we need to pre focus. When you hear the very first Whhomp! of the firework launch follow the contrail trail and when the firework explodes focus on the firework, and press your shutter release, or back button focus button if that’s how you focus to lock that in, and depress the shutter to make the image! In all likelihood that image isn’t very good. That’s okay, you’re just finding the place where the fireworks will explode and focusing there. Now lock your camera down so it’s aimed in that spot, and switch your focus mode to Manual Focus! When it gets dark it may be too hard for the camera/lens to lock focus and it will hunt. You don’t want that. So, by using that first firework to pre-focus on you should be good to go the rest of night in manual focus.
Settings for the image above: f/10, ISO 200, +1 Exposure Comp, 10 sec. DSLR w/ 300mm lens on a tripod
I release my shutter at the sound of the launch whhomp! If your camera is finished before the firework explodes and it blossoms to its full glory increase your shutter speed a bit. Or if the firework is finished before your camera is decrease your shutter speed. It’s a balance of timing and settings. Within the first few fireworks you should be able to find the sweet spot of settings then you can shoot and enjoy the show.
I am planning to photograph the fireworks tonight with some friends. I hope you get out with your camera too! 😊
I hope this helps and if it does please post some photos, and tell us about your experience on your blog or photo sharing site, then please share link here in the comments so I and others can see your images too!
I hope all my friends in the USA have a Happy Independence Day!
Cameras Nikon D700, and D300s.
more to come…