How to: Firework Photography / by Ricardo Seah

Firework Photography 101

A guide to everything you need to know about firework photography

 Singapore's National Day Fireworks Display

Singapore's National Day Fireworks Display

What you will need:

  • A Camera & memory cards/film (preferably one which allows for manual settings. ie. a DSLR, SLR, mirrorless, Medium-Format, Large Format... you get the idea)

  • A solid tripod (preferably not one of those cheap ones they give you for free when you get a camera bundle deal). I personally use a Manfrotto tripod.

  • Water and snacks (super important because you'll be there for some time).

Optional:

  • A portable stool/foldable chair (or you can just sit on the ground like me)

  • A shutter release/wireless shutter trigger (very useful and might be frustrating to shoot without though not impossible)

  • A human or a device (you're going to get bored waiting for hours alone so bringing a friend is a good idea)

What to do:

  1. Do your research! You need to know where the fireworks are going to be firing from and what time they go off. And then decide on which vantage point would work best for the shot. (Note: It's always nice to place the fireworks into perspective by including environmental elements such as buildings in the shot to inform the viewer).

  2. Get there ahead of the crowd (like really early). I personally get to the location and find the perfect spot many hours in advance (like 5 hours ahead of time #commitment).

  3. Set up your gear! Camera on tripod and start taking some shots to make sure you got the right angle and trying your best to estimate that the fireworks will be in the frame of the shot. Once you find the sweet spot autofocus on something in the distance like a building and then switch you camera to manual focus so that you get focus locked in and your camera won't be hunting for focus when the fireworks go off. 

  4. Be patient. If you are close enough you will be able to hear the fireworks being shot out of the tubes before you see the the explosion. once the fireworks are shot out of the tubes you have to immediately trigger your shutter release. It's best to shoot as the fireworks are being shot into the air, that way you will get the trail of light followed by the explosion. If you don't have a shutter release cable then you're going to want to put a 2 second timer and do the same. 

Settings:

  • Aperture: f/11 (For good depth of field because you listened and included some scenery in the composition)

  • Shutter speed: 6 seconds (I find that to be the best, any longer and you get too much in the shot and you get the trails of light after the explosion as it fades out)

  • ISO: 200 (if you find it to dark then increase the ISO as you shoot)

Something important to keep in mind

Fireworks produce a lot of smoke! Well duh.. The point is that your best shots are going to be the first few shots because smoke will begin to build up and will kinda ruin the later shots. Here's an example of what I mean:

 Shot number 1 (No Smoke)

Shot number 1 (No Smoke)

 Shot number 7 (quite some smoke has built up and the shot just ain't as good)

Shot number 7 (quite some smoke has built up and the shot just ain't as good)

You are now officially ready to shoot some fireworks! So get out there and shoot some awesome photos!

Upcoming Fireworks photo-opportunities (Click for details - useful for the research bit):

Vancouver - Honda Celebration of Light

Singapore - National Day Fireworks Display

Please give this post a like if you found it useful and I'll consider doing more of these "how to" blog posts. And don't forget to follow me on Instagram for my latest shots!

Till next time, keep shooting and have fun!