Photographing Fireworks on DSLR
Over the past 2 years I have been partaking in various courses to help me learn the ever confusing DSLR Camera, taking my camera fully out of Auto and using Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program mode and Manual. I am now using my camera very confidently and feeling I can begin to give hints and tips in achieving various shots. I do really enjoy pushing my knowledge to its limits and trying to capture those amazing shots, and one of my favourite ways is by photographing fireworks.
Over the course of this weekend and next there are lots of public firework displays happening, thus giving LOTS of photography potential to people who really want to capture fireworks in action.
Here is my short guide to capturing fireworks:
Go Manual! ISO, Aperture and Shutter
(And when I say manual, I mean EVERYTHING has to go manual, even down to the focusing!!!)
Lets talk camera settings first. To capture the amazing detail in fireworks your camera needs to be working at the lowest ISO possible (ISO100), this stops noise within your photo and leaves everything crisp. Now because your ISO will be low your camera will instantly be looking for bright scenes to capture, at night this is the worst possible time of day for bright scenes.
To help combat the low ISO you need to adjust your shutter speed and aperture to compensate.
To capture the trailing lights of a firework you also need to be working at a semi slow shutter speed, of which I estimate at about 2 seconds. Slow enough to capture the trailing lights but fast enough not to capture too many fireworks all in one go making the photograph look TOO busy.
Lastly, because you want to capture all the details of a firework, from the lights closest to you to the lights further at the back you need to be working at a higher depth of field allowing all that detail to come through to your camera. For this I recommend an F. of about f.8-f.16. The higher the f. you go though the slower your shutter speed will have to go to avoid lost detail.
Because your working in the dark your camera will really struggle to find its correct focus point and you will waste most of your time trying to get your camera to focus on auto before taking its shot and before you know it you’ve missed the whole display and have one out of focus shot to show for it. So I fully recommend putting your lens on to manual focus, set your focus to the display and leave it alone. If your aperture is high enough you should find the display constantly stays in focus as you have a perfect depth of field.
Use a Tripod
Given the slowness of the shutter speed I have mentioned above it is virtually impossible to hold a camera steady with a shutter speed of 2 seconds, especially when its SO cold outdoors now that all we do is shiver. Also there is a possibility that your shutter speed may need to go slower to capture your shots so hand holding is completely out of the question. For this a tripod is an absolute vital piece of kit! Plus you can slow your shutter speed to as slow as your possibly like.
Use a remote shutter
With your camera on a tripod a remote shutter will help prevent camera shake when you press the shutter on board the camera, and your camera will keep perfectly still to capture those breathtaking shots. If you don’t have a remote shutter, its not the end of the world, you can set your camera for a delayed shutter release. For my camera its set to 10 seconds, which gives my camera enough time to stop wobbling on the tripod before the shutter is activated. The only trouble with this is that it’s not instant and with the delay you may miss the shots you really want to capture.
Remember practise makes perfect, its all trial and error but most of all have fun!