Six tips for taking stunning fireworks photos this July 4
The Fourth of July is a time for fun, friends, and fireworks. Fireworks displays are dazzling, but they can be tricky to photograph. Follow these tips, courtesy of Dan Landau — photographer and Fairleigh Dickinson University PR assistant — and take your fireworks photos to the next level:
1. Use a long exposure
The average firework burst is several seconds long and a long exposure is needed to capture the whole burst. Some cameras have a “fireworks” mode and if yours does, then select that setting. If not, try another way to get the shutter to stay open:
If you’re feeling adventurous, try out the camera’s manual or shutter-priority modes (usually called “M” and “S,” respectively) and experiment with long shutter speeds of several seconds. If your camera doesn’t have a have a manual mode, look for a “night exposure” or “low light” mode to use instead.
2. Set up a tripod
Because of the long exposures necessary for firework photography, a tripod is essential to keep your camera steady. No matter how steady you think your hands are, they aren’t steady enough to keep the camera from shaking over the course of several seconds.
3. Click when they launch
It can be difficult to time your camera to take photos exactly when the fireworks burst, so rather than guess as to when the firework will explode, take your cues from the rockets and click the shutter button when you see the rockets first launch off the ground. This technique factors in the shutter lag (the delay between when you push the button and when the camera actually takes the photo) most cameras have and makes sure that your shutter is open when the fireworks explode, ensuring that you capture the whole burst.
4. Choose your vantage point
Where you will take photos from is very important. Ideally, try to position yourself upwind, so the order is camera, fireworks, smoke. If you are downwind of the fireworks, the smoke will come between you and the fireworks and make for hazy photos. Other things to keep in mind are the locations of trees, buildings, and power lines (many a great shot is ruined because of errant power lines cutting through the photo).
5. Don’t be a flasher
Make sure to turn off your flash. Besides being really annoying to the people around you who are trying to enjoy the show, your flash will add nothing to the shot and may even hurt your photos (the flash may confuse the camera into thinking that it needs a shorter shutter speed).
6. Take only mental pictures of the finale
The finale is the most spectacular part of the fireworks show, but it is also the worst part to photograph. Because of the number of fireworks bursting at once, photos of the finale tend to be overexposed and the overlapping bursts smear together and are not really distinguishable — you’ll get much better photos before the finale. Besides, the finale is the most fun part of the show, so just sit back and enjoy it.