Photography and fireworks

Bonfire night is a night where memories are made, where families come together and enjoy the aura of a light and sound spectacular.

For this reason, it is easy to understand why people would want to remember the occasion as best they can, and will, more than likely, want to photograph the great night so that they can look back on the magic of the evening time and time again.

You see photos appearing all the time on people’s social media pages of the great fireworks displays that they have been to; but how many can you honestly say look like a decent shot of the action? ‘Not many’, we bet your answer will be.

Fireworks and events like Bonfire night are notoriously difficult to capture on camera. This is because of the immense light action against a backdrop of dark sky and the pace at which everything is happening.

Bad Blurry Photograph

bad firework photography can be blurry

A Good Firework Photograph

a good example of a photograph of fireworks

All too often pictures will come out blurry because of the camera’s inability to focus correctly and, more than likely, because the camera that you own either isn’t up to the job or a setting is wrong.

We believe it is important that photographs document moments like this as accurately as possible so that memories can be cherished forever, and times like these can be relived as closely as possible.

With the above in mind, we thought we’d give you a quick guide and insight into the top tips we think may help you snap some of the best Bonfire night shots.

First and foremost, you have to bear in mind that the quality of camera you start with will have some bearing on the outcome of the pictures that you capture.

If you have got a cheap digital camera that was bought from a supermarket a couple of years ago, for instance, no amount of information and guidance will make the outcome of the pictures better than a camera that cost a couple of thousand pounds – common sense will have to prevail. The better the camera specification, the higher quality the pictures will be. This is not to say that you should not attempt to take any photographs with a standard digital camera, however. Even the most basic digital cameras on the market have a mode for ‘fireworks’ and some decent shots have been generated, so never be downbeat.

We’re going to focus on a middle of the range SLR, DSLR or mirrorless camera that boasts lots of settings that are specific to night-time shots and in particular firework modes.

First of all, you need to get your location right. Bonfire night is a night that is celebrated by many people and because of this you may have a bit of difficulty in getting a good place to pitch and set up your camera.

The last thing that you want is to be taking pictures of people’s heads and such like. Ensure you get a decent spot that has the best view of the display with very little outside interference. You should also use a tripod. Part of the ‘problem photographs’ captured on Bonfire night result from the fact that people haven’t got a steady hand and have rushed to quickly snap a firework as it blasts into the night sky.

A tripod keeps the camera steady and sturdy and gives the best opportunity for a solid picture to be taken.

Tripod for a digital slr camera used for taking firework pictures

You also need to be aware of focal length. We appreciate that Bonfire night is a hive of activity and there are fireworks going off left, right and centre but if you want to capture the perfect shot you have to ensure that the camera is all ready and focussed on one particular part of the night sky. Most trained photographers will tell you to shoot at a wider focal length as a first port of call to ensure you get the best shots. If these work out, you can then always alter to a few more compact shots to see if this works as well. As a general rule, though, the wider the better to start with.

You also need to play about with shutter speed to ensure you achieve the very best shot from your camera.

Many photographers advise people to experiment with their camera and settings for many months before they actually come to take reliable shots. Despite specifications, all cameras have their own quirks, and, like anything, need getting used to and understanding.

You should visit smaller displays and practice different techniques with shutter speeds to see which preference/setting your camera deals with the best. Many professionals believe, however, that pressing the shutter down as soon as the firework is about to burst and then only releasing when the firework has completely finished its explosion is the best way to capture the moment. As previously said, it’s all about practice and understanding your camera. Even professionals get it wrong on occasion and there will be many failed attempts at the perfect firework photograph before you get a decent one.

a remote trigger for a dslr camera

One common theme we have noticed when discussing the perfect shots with professionals is that they all seem to be in agreement that a good shutter setting is the ‘Bulb’ option. This is because the photographer has the ability to keep the shutter open for as long as possible. It is certainly worth a try.

Finally, switching your flash off will help create a better picture all round and it is also advised that you opt for capturing moments in manual mode rather than a camera’s auto settings. It is quite easy to believe, especially if you own a camera that is worth thousands, that the camera will be far more adept at capturing a photograph than a human. Wrong. Alterations will need making all the time and if you are in the manual mode you will quickly be able to alter shutter speed and aperture.

Practice really does make perfect when it comes to photography. Playing around with different settings and understanding a camera’s characteristics and attributes plays a massive part but takes time.

If you are serious about photography and taking the perfect pictures of fireworks, ensure you have all the latest gear and really brush up on techniques and tricks of the trade by people in the know.

You also need to be aware of focal length. We appreciate that Bonfire night is a hive of activity and there are fireworks going off left, right and centre but if you want to capture the perfect shot you have to ensure that the camera is all ready and focussed on one particular part of the night sky. Most trained photographers will tell you to shoot at a wider focal length as a first port of call to ensure you get the best shots. If these work out, you can then always alter to a few more compact shots to see if this works as well. As a general rule, though, the wider the better to start with.

You also need to play about with shutter speed to ensure you achieve the very best shot from your camera.

Many photographers advise people to experiment with their camera and settings for many months before they actually come to take reliable shots. Despite specifications, all cameras have their own quirks, and, like anything, need getting used to and understanding.

You should visit smaller displays and practice different techniques with shutter speeds to see which preference/setting your camera deals with the best. Many professionals believe, however, that pressing the shutter down as soon as the firework is about to burst and then only releasing when the firework has completely finished its explosion is the best way to capture the moment. As previously said, it’s all about practice and understanding your camera. Even professionals get it wrong on occasion and there will be many failed attempts at the perfect firework photograph before you get a decent one.

Point and Shoot Cameras with preset modes

digital-firework-photography-tutorials-ghengis

A lot of modern cameras today have preset modes, so you don’t have to fiddle about with shutter rates and ISO settings.

If this is the case with your camera then just select the Firework Photo mode, This has the IS (image stabilisation), and Pre Programmed exposure settings are done for you and will take excellent photographs.

1. Use the firework preset mode.

2. Brace the camera and make it as sturdy as possible, we advise using a tripod or handheld gimble the steadier the camera, the better the firework photograph will be.

3. Big Vollies of shells and SIB cake burst will produce the best effects for photos.

Point and Shoot Cameras with preset modes

Firework photography with an digital SLR camera

If you want to take your firework photography to the next level, with more professional looking photographs, we advise using a camera with complete manual controls and settings. Such as a DSLR or Bridge Camera.

For this, the most important settings for you to focus on are the ones that control, Shutter Speed, Length of Exposure and Image Stabilisation.

 

Best Settings And Exposure For Firework Photography:

ISO: 100 Low rates are best.
ISO: 100 – F8 or F11
ISO: 64 – F5.6 or F8
ISO: 50 – F5.6 or F8

Manual Focus: Set the focus during the day and do not change it also in most circumstances using infinity (∞) is perfectly fine.

White Balance: Using auto white balance is recommended (AWB) and should be more than sufficient.

Image Stabilisation: Set this to OFF this will give your pictures, and much more precise look if you’re using a gimble or tripod.

 

Using a Tripod or Gimble

We can’t emphasise enough how important it is to use a tripod or gimble to hold your DSLR or Bridge camera still and keep it while taking firework photographs it will improve your pictures ten fold.

Think and Plan Ahead:
When your camera and tripod is all set up, it’s time to think of the photography its self maybe visit the site before the event and find the best spot for you to setup your tripod and where you’re going to get the clearest view of the fireworks.

Also, it’s usually best to shoot in landscape mode as most firework companies like to fill the sky with various effects so to fit them all in and not miss out.

It’s also a very good idea to have something in the shot to give you a bit of perspective or to establish a sense of scale, so trees and people are always good to try and fit into your shots.

Make sure to take care and not include the moon or streetlights in your shots as these could ruin the outcome due to your long exposure times.

If you’re setting up early to get the best spot remember to focus your camera in the day as its a lot harder to focus it in the dark.

Here are some essentials to bring with you, warm clothing or water proofs if the weather is not great, a folding chair is always handy to bring along in case you get there early and have a long wait till it gets dark. Food and water or a flask of your favourite hot drink always makes the waiting time a lot easier.

how to take photographs of fireworks tutorial
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firework photographs and how to take them

Only got a mobile, not a problem have a look at our guide to photographing fireworks on your mobile right here.

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