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How to Photograph Fireworks - 4th of July Fireworks St. Petersburg Florida 2012

4th of July Fireworks over downtown St. Petersburg Florida 2012 - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/11 ISO 200 10.5 sec tripod mounted with cable release covering lens frequently with a cardThere is an art and methodology to photographing fireworks that if you have the necessary gear is pretty fun.  To photograph fireworks properly you need:

  • DSLR camera with bulb mode
  • Lens with appropriate focal length for your location
  • Very stable tripod
  • Cable release
  • A stiff card large enough to cover the front of your lens

Other tips for shooting fireworks:

  • Choose a spot with a clear open view (obviously!)
  • Choose a spot that is upwind (so smoke does not blow into your shots)
  • Include foreground elements (do not just shoot the fireworks themselves)
  • Do not record overlapping fireworks (will just look blown out in one spot)

4th of July Fireworks in St. Petersburg Florida 2012 - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/11 ISO 200 27.4 sec tripod mounted with cable release covering lens frequently with a cardThe actual process for making and recording a multiple firework image:

  1. While still light out focus on something where the fireworks will be
  2. Set your focus to manual focus so you do not have to worry about autofocusing in the dark
  3. Use manual exposure mode set to bulb mode and f/8 or f/11 & your lowest ISO
  4. Hold the shutter open with your cable release when seeing a streak going into the air
  5. Cover the front of the lens quickly & carefully with the card
  6. When the firework explodes remove the card for a split second
  7. If another firework explodes in a different spot, remove the card again
  8. Repeat step 7 a few times then release the shutter

4th of July fireworks finale in St. Petersburg Florida 2012 - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/11 ISO 200 28.8 sec tripod mounted with cable release covering lens frequently with a cardI also try to avoid removing the card for fireworks that are just bright balls of light as these tend to overexpose and just look like all-white blobs.  Overly bright fireworks can also reflect light onto smoke in the sky ruining the shot.  The ideal is to catch a streaking firework trail going up, a low firework explosion, a middle one, and then a very high one.  This evening they tended to explode in the same spot like three times in a row, which is no good as the overlapping makes them start to again look like an all-white blob.  If you are patient, study the patterns of explosions, and use good technique exposing the front of the lend with the card, then you will give yourelf the best chance at creating a satisfying fireworks multiple explosion image.  

Post a link to your fireworks shots in the comments below!

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Reader Comments (2)

Nice shots Jason!

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Glover

Thanks Michael, it took me a couple years to get fireworks shots I liked due to the infrequency of fireworks displays and finally have the right gear to be able to make the shots.

July 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterJason Collin

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