The 4th of July is my favorite holiday. There is so much focus on family. We spent the morning watching the hot air balloons launch over our sitting before hitting the gorgeous parade. We walk around the craft and vendor fair and then have a delicious BBQ before finishing with an amazing firework show. I always end up with hundreds of pictures from the day. It is the perfect day to photograph, so many bright colors and family moments and of course… fireworks.
Photographing fireworks can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. Most point and shoots and even some SLRs have a firework mode that you can change too and most of the items below are taken care of for you. Just set your camera on a tripod and you are ready to go. If you are like me and you love to have full control over your firework shot, use the tips below to get the perfect one.
Tripod and Shutter Speed: In order to capture great firework photos, you will need to set your shutter speed for a lot longer than the typical split second it is open so you will get a lot of arm shake blur if you don’t have something to stabilize the camera. A tripod is the best and easiest way to go, but if you have somewhere safe you can set your camera and release the shutter with a timer or remote will work too. In a pinch I have sat on the ground with both of my knees up, resting up arms on my knees as a I photograph fireworks. It works, but tripod is much easier. You will want your shutter speed to be at least 1 second long to capture the full explosion of each firework, but experiment with this. I usually shoot between 1 second and 4.
ISO: Turn off your auto ISO. In order to compensate for the dark, your camera is going to try to auto set itself to a higher ISO, but fireworks are so bright, it isn’t necessary. Set your camera to a low ISO setting, like ISO 100.
Flash: There is no way you flash can reach all the way to the fireworks. With firework photos, all your camera flash is going to do is ruin the photos.
When to photograph: I like to photograph at the beginning and middle of a firework show the most. There is less smoke and just a few fireworks in the air at the time. During the “grand finale” there are a lot of fireworks in the sky at once, losing some of the details that make firework photos so much fun. You can drop the shutter speed down to 1 second or so to avoid this.
Aperture: You want a higher aperture, that will allow your backdrop to be in focus. I start at f/8 and work up from there if I need to. Usually between f/8 and f/16 is my firework sweet spot.
Focus: You are going to want to turn off your auto focus and use manual. Fireworks are too fast in the sky to use them as the focal point. Find something to focus on out where your fireworks are going to be. Usually you can do this before the show even starts and just leave it.
Make sure you are buying quality fireworks with a no-dud guarantee: This year for our firework show, we are buying from Provo Fireworks. Whenever I walk into one of those tent firework stands, I feel overwhelmed. I am surrounded by fireworks but I have no idea what they will look like once lit. I feel like I am guessing and hoping that I am buying a good show. Provo Fireworks offers videos of most of their fireworks so you can make sure you are buying exactly what you want. Check out the video on the Mardi Gras Fiesta Firework, it is one of my favorite aerials. They have a wide selection, so I can buy a good range of smaller and larger fireworks for our show. I LOVE that they have a good range of aerial fireworks too, I often feel like there is only one level of aerial and they offer aerials for all different kind of budgets.
Growing up in Utah, everyone used to drive to Wyoming to get their fireworks. If you wanted great fireworks, you headed to Wyoming, Provo Fireworks is finally offering these same fireworks right here in Utah for much cheaper. Since you buy online instead of at a tent, the overhead is much cheaper and they pass that savings on to you directly. You can pick up your fireworks in Provo for free or have them delivered for only $5 in Utah County.
Provo Fireworks is a small business committing to creating wonderful customer relationships. They offer a no-dud guarantee. If you firework is a dud, they will replace it. How awesome is that? You can buy each individual firework or you can buy one of the packages the owner has put together for different groups of people. He has packages for families with young kids, family with tweens and even one for a whole block party.
Where are you going to be photographing fireworks this year?