Part 1: Best Camera Settings for Firework Setup Photo Shoot
I have taken photos of fireworks for many years. My early years were on film and slides and I had to wait a week to 10 days to see the results. Eventually, there was same-day film processing and that helped, but did not reduce the cost. What savings we have with digital where we can instantly see the outcome on the back of our cameras and the cost savings and time savings for not having to send the film out for processing.
With that in mind, don't worry if some of what you try does not work out. However, this series of blog posts will be mirroring my YouTube releases so you can read this blog and also hear my explanations, and if you follow my suggestions your chances of getting some cool fireworks photos will be good.
This post is going to go over the settings I use for my camera when taking photographs of fireworks (which will also work on capturing moving lights in traffic or similar situations. Also, this is part 1 of a 4-part series, so make sure to read all 4 posts to get more.
The first thing to understand is that in this situation manual mode is the best way to take night photos. The camera technology is unable to properly expose the light you are trying to capture due to the constant change in light and color. We will also be doing longer exposures and will make adjustments during the shoot. If anything is automatic, it will be trying to compensate for any effect we attempt. So, 100% manual mode including ISO and focus.
You can practice prior to the big show with night street photography to capture moving tail lights or headlights or even a light in a dark room in your house. This will help you set up your camera beforehand as well.
I have used a variety of settings and techniques and this first in a series of four blog posts is covering the standard fireworks shot that you see most often. This post will also be the supporting base for posts 2, 3, and 4. If you only read part 1 that is fine, but you will have more fun if you make it through all four.
Settings for the photos. I highly recommend you test and try many settings and make your own adjustments.
Most fireworks displays on July 4th are last about 20 minutes, so you have plenty of time to take many photos. As I mentioned above, I adjust the shutter speed more than any other setting. I recommend you start at 10-second shutter speeds while you are adjusting. Ten seconds is short enough if you need to adjust your tripod it won't waste a lot of time. Once you have your camera aimed and settled on the tripod then try setting for longer or shorter shutter speeds. Once you are getting some decent shots try to frame the fireworks by zooming in on the lens for tighter shots to fill the frame more.
There you go, now you have all the information needed to set up for basic fireworks or night light photoshoots.
Links to the other parts of this series.