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5 beginner’s tips for good fireworks photography

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People watching fireworks burst in the night sky

Fireworks are amazing. And we all want the photography to help people remember the display.

But fireworks photography is hard. The fireworks go off when you’re not ready. They burst in different parts of the sky. You press the button too early. Or too late. The images are fuzzy. And then the display is over. Aarrghhh!!!

But with a some planning (and more than a bit of luck) anyone can get great results. I’ve been practising for years, and have had my work featured in the Guardian and on CNN

Fireworks crew silhouetted against the explosions and sparks at a training event

Here are my 5 top tips for beginners.

  1. Use a tripod.
    You are trying to take a photo of a burning light. You’re standing in the dark. Maybe it’s cold. Or raining. Or both. The most important thing you can do is KEEP THE CAMERA STILL. Use a tripod if you possibly can. Or hold your camera steady against something that won’t move – a tree, a lamppost, a bench. Hold your breath and squeeze the button gently. Don’t “snap” – if you do the camera will move and the picture will be blurred.
  2. Use the best camera you can.
    The phone on your camera is fine – in daylight. And some are even getting better in the dark. But if you can use a better camera it will really improve your photography. 
  3. Turn off auto features.
    No flash. No autofocus. No filters. Go for the simplest set up you can. And if you have a really good camera, you will be able to explore the settings which will make your fireworks photography even better. I’ll be writing more about this in a later post.
  4. Stand further back.
    Most people try to capture the firework itself in the night sky. This is fine. But part of what you are wanting to remember is the people who were there. The atmosphere. The excitement. If you stand a bit further back you can get some of these elements in your photo, too. 
  5. Mind the smoke.
    All fireworks produce smoke. And if it’s between you and the fireworks, your picture may be disappointing. Try to stand upwind of the display with the wind coming over your shoulder. That way the smoke will drift away from you and won’t spoil the photo.

    Having said that, sometimes the smoke itself can be really dramatic:-
Crowd of people watching fireworks, lights and smoke

Now there is one final tip I would give anyone. TAKE LOADS OF PHOTOGRAPHS. Take some at the beginning of the display. Check them. Are they what you are looking for? Do you need to move? Do you need to time it differently? Do you need to try a different setting?

Try again.

And again.

Digital photography has one other advantage: it costs no more to take 100 photos than it does to take 10. So take lots of photographs and find the best ones afterwards.

Crowd of people watching fireworks explode above a river

I’ll be posting advanced tips soon, so bookmark this page and check back later.

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