If you don’t meet the moment when you photograph fireworks and miss the shot trying to find the best setting for your camera, I can tell you it is a very depressing feeling, and I believe many amateur photographers face it in the fireworks photography.
Fireworks lighten the night sky for only a few seconds, thus you need to be ready and have your camera settings and gear set up for those few seconds so you can get as many fireworks photos as possible during the celebration. There are a few fireworks photography tips that you need to consider before the show begins. These tips are related to either the camera settings or the camera gear that you should prepare before taking the shots. Let us start with fireworks photography tips that are related to the camera settings and shot composition:
Use a slow shutter speed
When the fireworks are launched, it takes some time between it bursts and fades away with a light trail. A slow shutter speed lets your camera shutter stay open for as long as possible, and expose the light and display the light trails of the fireworks. Therefore, when you increase the shutter opening time, you get the chance to expose longer light trails in the fireworks shot.
Generally, you can choose any shutter speed above 1 second based on the light available in the scene. Also, you can set the shutter speed to Bulb and control the shutter manually using the camera remote.
Choose the proper aperture
When you shoot fireworks photography, both aperture and ISO are related to each other and you need to consider both values so that your shots will not be over-exposed. Generally, you need to choose a narrow aperture to take fireworks photos because of the distance of the object, and avoid over-exposure due to wide aperture. When you set the aperture, note that the narrower the aperture, the higher ISO value you should use, as we will see below in the ISO settings part. To understand how is the camera exposure works, read Understanding Camera Exposure.
Set up the camera ISO
As I mentioned above, both aperture and ISO are closely linked in fireworks photography. Although a high ISO can give you the chance to expose more light, it will also produce noise in the shot. Therefore, you need to choose the aperture value that allows exposing some light using an ISO value of 100 or 200.
For example, if you use an ISO value of 100, you can set the aperture to 8 or 16. But if you set up the ISO to 200, you need to use a narrower aperture, such as 16 or 22.
Do not use flash
There is no reason to use Flash in fireworks photos, as it is totally useless in such shots. The object is very far away and will not be affected by your camera flash, and on the other hand, the long shutter speed is enough to expose the light trails, which is all you need in the shot.
Prepare for your composition
The composition is the most important part in your shot. So, before the celebration you need to pick a place that will allow you to take good fireworks photos. Also, consider that fireworks are large in the sky, so you need to choose a composition that lets you take wide shots of the sky where the fireworks are bursting. Read Maximize the Background in your Composition for useful composition tips.
For such a composition, you can use a wide-angle lens of 10mm-42mm, which will help you take wider shots of the sky. In addition to the fireworks photography tips above, there are some other tips related to your gear and equipment, as follows:
Use a tripod and camera remote
A long shutter speed requires a real steady shot, therefore, you need to use tripod to avoid any camera shake or blurry shots. If you are using the Bulb mode, you will need a camera remote to avoid the shake when you click the camera shutter.
Bring a light source
On those dark nights, you need a light source to light the place where you will be before the celebration. Also, you will need a light source to see the camera LCD to set it up before the shots.
The tips above can help you avoid most of the frustrating issues that you can encounter when you do fireworks photography. Additionally, using the Raw format can help you fix the exposure later using the Camera Raw plugin for Adobe Photoshop.