As a photographer, naturally you would get excited about shooting some fireworks with your camera. You have this expensive camera equipment, manual controls and you love to play. So every year you’re out watching the fireworks and capture the local firework display and of course you have a great time doing it. But then you do it again next year, and next year, and next year. All your photos start to look the same. Another firework exploded in the sky. How can you change this up and make something a little more interesting? I’ll tell you how to change it up, focus on this article, not your fireworks.
First, lets setup our exposure. Fireworks emit a significant amount of light so we’ll start off with an ISO of 100. Your typical neighborhood fireworks will fire, explode and be done all within 4 seconds. The bigger displays maybe 6 or 7 seconds. Utilizing this method where you really only want 1 firework in your frame, you can either use bulb mode or set the exposure manually for 3 – 7 seconds, your choice. I prefer bulb mode because I can control the beginning and the end a little better. From there, set your aperture so your ambient light is underexposed by 3 stops. This will help put your background and almost complete black which will make the firework stand out more. Now, using this method where you want to set the light of the firework out of focus, you might want to use a wider aperture, if necessary, you may need to use an ND filter, which is crazy to think you’d use one at night but remember, fireworks emit a lot of light and if creatively you are wanting way out of focus and want to shoot at f/2.8 an ND filter just may be necessary.
All you really need to do is put your camera in bulb mode and have your hand on your focus ring. When you hear the boom of the firework being shot into the sky, start your exposure. Once you see it burst, adjust your focus. How you adjust your focus will determine how the final shot comes out. I’ve placed captions under each image with how I changed my focus during the course of the shot.
Your results may vary depending on your camera and lens combination. And you don’t need to worry how wide your aperture is either, as long as your lens can throw the scene out of focus, which they all do, you can do this. With that said, the wider the aperture, the greater the blur and effect you can create, however, all the images above were taken at f/11 or smaller. It doesn’t even have to be one of those huge firework displays either. There were taken on my front porch in my subdivision because EVERYBODY likes to light off fireworks these days!
So there you have it, go out and try something different with your fireworks this year.