Although fireworks have been around for more than 1,000 years, it’s still an awesome spectacle when they explode into the night sky. And yet, capturing photographs of pyrotechnics can be tricky. Here’s how to get the perfect fireworks pictures this Fourth of July.
Get in Position
Standing in the right place is a must for taking any photograph, and that’s doubly true when you’re shooting fireworks. Photos of the illuminated night sky almost always look best when there is a frame of reference available on the ground to give them more scope and grandeur.
If you’re close to the action, your best bet is framing your shot so that something nearby appears in the foreground, and the fireworks themselves appear directly behind it. While you probably don’t want to see the backs of a bunch of heads in the foreground, a stand of palm trees, the tops of boats docked at the marina, or the silhouettes of houses can all add visual interest to the shot.
If you’re far away from the fireworks (which is probably more common), it usually works best to include the explosions as part of a broader landscape photo. A wide shot of fireworks going off over a downtown cityscape or above a bay filled with boats creates a really powerful image. But an isolated photo of some distant starbursts with a black background doesn’t make the same statement. Position your camera to avoid distracting clutter in the foreground.
As with any night-time shooting, your camera will have to be set for a relatively long exposure so the image comes out clearly. At the same time, this means even the slightest movement of the camera will result in blurry images. A tripod is the only reliable way to avoid this: Don’t even try to snap fireworks pictures freestyle. The auto-timer setting on a camera can be another great help by ensuring you don’t have to touch the camera at all, so it remains absolutely still.
While you’re collecting hardware, make sure your batteries are fully charged and your SD card has plenty of room on it. You won’t have time to run home for a new one or even to swap out batteries or cards, or you’ll miss a lot of the action.
Prepare Your Camera Settings
How do you set your camera to best capture these intense colors against a dark background? Some cameras make it easy by including a Fireworks mode that takes the guesswork out of some complicated camera settings. If your camera doesn’t have a Fireworks mode, you’ll need to experiment to find the best settings. Start by turning off the flash (it’s useless when your subject is far away), and set the shutter to stay open for as long as possible. This will help you catch the fireworks before and during the explosion, giving your photo a sense of motion—and a lot more color than you’d get with a short shutter speed. Change your ISO setting to the smallest level available.
Mix It Up
While you’ll want to focus on shots that incorporate some landscape as discussed above, you may want to try to get some up-close shots too. Save these shots for the latter half of the show. Zoom in as tight as possible on a particularly active section of the sky, and try to time your shots by watching the light trails launching from the ground. They won’t all pan out, but if you’re lucky you might grab some close-up gems that capture the finer details of the explosions.
Photo Credits: Samsung
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