Tips for Photographing Fireworks

“We’re going to live on; we’re going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence day.”—“President Bradford” in the (original) film Independence Day


Some photographic subjects, such as fireworks or lightening, can’t easily—at least for me—be captured using any of the standard exposure metering systems but some cameras, including some from Olympus, offer a Fireworks Mode that slows the shutter speed and sets the focusing point to infinity.Tip: If you don’t have a fireworks mode, you can do that yourself. Here are the steps that I use to photograph fireworks although I am far from being an expert on this subject:

  • First, switch your camera from Autofocus to Manual focus.
  • Next, go into manual exposure mode (M) and then select BULB as your shutter speed.
  • Third, pick and aperture that somewhere in the middle for the range for lens  you’re going to use; it’s probably going to be the “sweet spot” around f/8 or whatever.

With these settings, the shutter will stay open as long as the release is depressed. Since this increases the danger of camera movement, you should mount the camera on a sturdy tripod to minimize getting a bunch of squiggly lines in the photograph and use a remote control device or a cable release to trip the shutter. But you can hand hold too and go for the squiggly look. Tip: One of the biggest mistakes people make is shooting fireworks before it’s too dark; heck I did that for years and got really crappy-looking washed out images. So be patient.

happy-canada-day-canada-flag-graphicCaption: I shot the above Winter Solstice fireworks shot in Acapulco using a Leica D-Lux 2 in Starry Night mode producing an exposure of 15 seconds at f/4.9 and ISO 800. Camera was rested on a concrete block wall and tripped using the Leica’s self-timer.

Author: Joe Farace

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