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How to Photograph Fireworks Display

People all around the world celebrates some events with spectacular fireworks display. It maybe religious, social, sports, national days, or special events but fireworks are always awesome display of lights. They also look amazing on photograph if you can shoot them properly.  From my experiences, I would like to share some tips & tricks on how to shoot fireworks with a camera.
A single firecracker lit the sky

The Gear List:

Too close to the event won't fit all in the frame, staying far enough is recommended to fill the frame properly
  1. A Camera with manual control ( Manual focus, Manual exposure )
  2. Wide angle lens ( The wider is better, especially if you are near the event. I recommend 20mm or less. If you have only telephoto lens, then  find a place far away with good visibility to the event location)
  3. A sturdy tripod
  4. Cable release ( manual / electronic / remote, based on your camera)
  5. Fully charged camera battery ( keep an spare too for long event)
Too close to the event won't fit all in the frame, staying far enough is recommended to fill the frame properlyPatience is one of the key element but it's no gear

Shooting Location:

A clear  and wide view is recommended to compose additional elements
Once you have your gear ready, head off to the shooting location. Find a place to sit, a bit fur away from the place where firecrackers would be launched. Make sure you get a clear view of the sky where firecrackers will burst. The fireworks would cover the top half of the frame. You should be able to add people, buildings, tree, water-body in the bottom half of the frame. Plan early so that you get the perfect place to setup your gears.

Before The Shooting Starts:

  1.  Mount your camera on the tripod.
  2.  Attached the cable release or set your camera to remote release mode.
  3. Set focus to manual ( 'M' ) and then focus to infinity.
  4. Set exposure to manual ('M')
  5. Set aperture f16/f22/f32 whichever highest 'f' number available in your lens.
  6. Set shutter speed to 2 sec or more.
  7. Set the ISO to lowest available one e.g.  ISO 100
  8. Compose the frame in landscape position with top half covering sky where cracker will burst and the bottom half includes people, building, trees, lake etc.
  9. Take a test shots and adjust the frame if required.
  10. Seat back and wait till the event starts

The shooting:

Once the first firecracker is launched, it's time to press the shutter release button through your cable release or remote release. Be sure to check the following while you shoot.

  1. Check the first photo to verify your frame composition is as per your setup. You may need to adjust a little bit up or down, left or right.
  2. Increase or decrease the shutter speed based on the frequency of firecrackers launch
  3. Protect the setup, people may accidentally trip or shake your tripod
  4. Make sure, camera didn't run out of battery.
  5. Check every photo in the camera LCD after shutter is closed. Adjust the frame if required.

Shot from far and wide, steady tripod mounting is important

Other Tricks:

Most of the time, the firecrackers would cover a small area in the frame while the rest of the frame is completely dark, especially the sky part. There are two main ways to get the whole frame full of fireworks lights.
  1. Use Long Exposure ( 15 sec or more) : There are usually 2 to 5 secs gap between subsequent launch. Shoot the first set on the left or right side of the frame. Then, rotate the tripod head to frame the next set of fireworks in the middle of the frame. Note, it's dark between the launch so the camera would not record anything even if you adjust the frame while the shutter is still open. Record the 3rd set of launch on the other side of the frame. Now you have the full frame of lights.
  2. Use multiple exposure ( 2 or 3 ) : Set your camera in multiple exposure mode and adjust the frame between each exposure.

Long exposure, shot from far and wide, about 1/2 mile away from the event

There are other ways to get a full frame of fireworks  e.g. post processing using layer mask etc. I guess, these are all the tips & tricks you would need. Remember, photography is an art, so no rules are written in stone. You can adjust or innovate setting as per your need or imagination. But always practice safety first, don't get close to fireworks. They are hazardous and might cause injury. Stay safe and shoot amazing photographs. 
Post processed in Photoshop CS using layer mask. The left and right sides contains the same image.


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