4th of July Fireworks Photo Tips


The 4th of July means Fireworks.  Every year many Stone Photo customers try to capture the spectacular images exploding in the night sky on film with disastrous results.  Fireworks are among the most difficult objects to photograph however with the proper setup and a little luck, you can have great results and great photos.

Equipment Needed:
Camera capable of Bulb ("B") Exposures
Medium Focal Range Lens (70. - 105mm)
Sturdy Tripod
Black Card
High Contrast Film (speed is almost irrelevant)
Locking Remote Trigger

If you have the equipment then you are half way to taking great fireworks photos.  Location is everything in all photos but most importantly when photographing fireworks.  The less ambient light the better which is almost impossible in the Boston Area.  You will never escape ambient light, but try to find a great fireworks display in a not so urban area.  If that is not possible then try to keep sources of light behind you.  Locations too close to the display may cause the bursts to fill the frame, while locations far away may not let you see enough detail. 

Lens Selection and Location Distance will greatly depend whether or not you want to capture individual or just a few bursts, or you want to capture the grand finale.  Unfortunately you may not be able to capture both in one show.  It is possible to use a lens a 50mm or even lower focal length lens to capture the finale while using a 100mm or higher focal length lens to capture individual bursts.  Keep in mind that the shorter the focal length of the lens the more ambient light it will let in.  Experimentation and Experience will help hone in what is right for you and the location you are shooting.

Once you have your equipment, grab a cup of coffee and head out to your spot.  

Set up your Tripod and mount your camera.  Using a Locking Remote Trigger is really important for minimizing camera shake.  Some cameras let you start the Bulb Exposure with one press and release it with another.  That option will work as well.  I do not recommend trying to hold a bulb exposure. even if the camera is mounted on a tripod.

Once the fireworks start, use the first few to sight in the camera, since with an SLR camera you will have to shoot blind once you start the bulb exposure.  Use the focus ring on the lens to set the focus on infinity.  Even if this is off a little the fireworks are going to streak so a little blur will probably not be noticeable.  Aperture should be set around F 5.6, depending on the lens you are using.

The idea behind the setup is to start the Bulb Exposure while holding the black card in front of the lens.  If you are close enough to hear the launch, you can guess when the burst will happen.  Remove the black card at the time of the burst and then block the lens with it when the burst has faded.  You can get multiple bursts on one exposure, however, the longer you hold the bulb exposure the longer ambient light will seep in and ruin your photo.  Blank Bursts or Noisemakers can ruin the exposure as well.  Remember that you should not touch the black card to the lens.      

If your pictures do not turn out well this time, do not get discouraged.  Photographing fireworks is one of the more difficult shots to get right.

I am going to try and get a shot or two of the Fireworks from the Brockton Fair.  I get a good view from my rooftop and there are multiple days of them.  Come in and share your pictures with us, I would like to put some of the better shots on the website so please, keep those cameras clicking.

-submitted and written by David Beauchesne, Lab Manager, Stone Photo