Happy 4th of July (Photographing Fireworks)

Hey guys! I hope you are all ready for a fun weekend of grilling, family, outdoor games, pool parties, sparklers and of course fireworks!

I'll be riding my bicycle a crazy 120 miles this weekend with my hubby, my parents, and some bike friends. It should be lots of fun. I won't have a chance to photograph any fireworks this weekend, but for any of you photo buffs out there who want to try it, here are some settings to try.
  • Tripod - you will want a tripod so that you can use slow enough shutter speeds to capture the firework trails.
  • You will either want a cable release or remote trigger so that you don't bump the camera during your long exposure. Don't have one of those? Some camera have a 2 second delay so that when you push the shutter button you have 2 seconds before the shutter releases or if you don't have that you can always put your camera on the self-timer (this is a little slower and more random, but it will work.) Bulb mode works great if you have that as well.

  • Think about what lens you want and how you want to frame your shots. I like mine zoomed in without the crowd around me, but you if you want to capture the surroundings, then you may want to shoot a wide angle.

  • Shoot in Manual at a low ISO if you can. Too high of an ISO and all those black areas of the night sky can really show noise.
  • Focus at infinity and turn your auto focus off. Auto focus is not your friend in the dark. It is just going to hunt for a focus point. (Personal note - I'm not a fast manual focuser, so I kept my autofocus on, and since it needs something to focus on, I would focus on the fading previous burst, but I wouldn't release the shutter until the next burst started so that I had a full 4 seconds on the burst I was photographing.)

  • A good starting combo is somewhere around f/11 and a 3-4 second shutter speed. (If 4 seconds looks over exposed, back off to 3 seconds, etc.) Remember, you want long enough to capture the full burst of the firework, so if you need longer time, then you will need to increase your f-stop.

  • Practice the timing. You want to catch the firework at the beginning of the burst for the best effect. I've learned that shooting when the first set of fireworks goes off is the best. Toward the end of a series, there is so much smoke in the sky, it really shows up in your shots. I wait until it clears again and then resume shooting.

  • Don't forget you can make fun long exposures and light paint with sparklers as well.

  • Be SAFE!!! (Especially with those sparklers, peeps!)
Here are shots I took at last year's fireworks display in Peoria. These were all taken at ISO 100, f/11, and 4 seconds.