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Fireworks Photography Tips and Techniques

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When you are going to photograph fireworks, be prepared. Make sure you have enough memory cards and extra batteries. You will need to take a tripod, a wide-angle or a telephoto zoom lens, and remember to arrive early. Place the camera on a tripod, and turn the mode dial to M (manual) mode; we want f/8 – f/16 for a greater DOF (depth of field) and a long exposure anywhere between 1-10 seconds. Use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release to take the photo with absolutely no blurring. For dramatic effect, try to capture multiple fireworks trails across the sky.

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Position yourself in a good spot at the center of the action. It’s a great idea to include the heads of other visitors, as it gives a sense of perspective and dimension. Place you camera on a tripod and choose a large aperture to keep things fairly sharp. Set your ISO at 100 to keep the digital noise at a minimum. Wait for multiple fireworks to go off, and use a cable release to take the photo. Don’t use flash because it could ruin the effect in the image, and take a longer exposure to catch various stages of breathtaking fireworks.

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When it comes to shutter speed, you should pick a slow exposure, anywhere between 1 – 15 seconds in order to capture the light trails. The longer the exposure, the more lines will appear and the longer they will look. Any faster would not catch the extended moment of the fireworks exploding. You should take the image using the camera’s self timer or a cable release so that you avoid touching and jiggling the camera. If you don’t have anything to hold your camera steady, increase your camera’s sensitivity to light by increasing the ISO. This will give you shorter exposures without blurs, but be prepared for more grain or ‘noise’ in your fireworks pictures.

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Snap up the action, but avoid shutter lag (the time it takes between pressing the trigger and the camera taking the picture) by keeping the shutter button pressed halfway. When the right moment comes, press all the way down to instantly capture the desired image. Let the smoke clear away before taking your next shot, so as to reduce the need to edit the fireworks photos with software later.

Fireworks in Manhattan

Mount the camera on a sturdy tripod and position it so that the bridge, the water and buildings can be seen; we want interest in the foreground and background. Set the mode dial to AV (Aperture Priority) mode, set the ISO at the range of 100 to 400 and choose an aperture of f/16 or more. Ideally we want a long exposure anywhere between 1-30 seconds for a silky water effect. Use a wide-angle lens (10mm – 42mm) for a broad perspective. You’ll want to disengage the autofocus on your lens, and set it to Infinity (the sideways 8 on the lens barrel); this isn’t always apparent on some digital lens, so you have to figure this out for your given lens. Use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release to take the photo with absolutely no blurring.

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Attila Kun the author

Attila is the founder and editor-in-chief of Exposure Guide. He is an avid photographer, graphic designer, bedroom DJ and devoted Mac addict. Attila got his first DSLR camera, a Canon 10D, back in 2003 and he has been hooked on photography ever since. He is deeply passionate about helping people learn about photography.

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