How to photograph fireworks – a refresher course!

So here we are again! Another year and another 4th about to go down. Here in the states, its of course the day that we celebrate the independence of our country….July 4th. And like clockwork, every year some of us blow off a few fireworks or at the very least, watch a show put on by the pros 🙂

I must admit that I am not a fan of crowds, but lucky for me, I live a few steps from the waterfront here in West Palm Beach, where “our” show is launched every year. I head out almost every year with the kit to capture a few bursts, and then chill out with my feet up on the patio to listen to the horns honking as the masses try to leave the congested city. Good times 🙂

There is a REALLY good chance that shot above was with the iPhone….or perhaps a point and shoot? One of those 2. These grids below were taken with the bigger kit and sticks (more about that in a few) from previous 4th celebrations as well as final night Sunfest fireworks shows. Again, so close I could fall out of bed and almost be there 🙂

So how do I capture all of these? That was the original intention here actually, to quickly share the tips …. so lets get started!

Ill keep it quick, and list them actually. I did a video today that I will share after this for a few more tips, but for a quick cheat sheet, here we go:

  • Use a tripod
  • Shoot raw
  • All manual! Manual focus, stop, shutter, etc.
  • Either a DSLR or a mirrorless with a medium zoom lens
  • Focus to infinity (or just shy of it)
  • f8 – f16 (experiment with this. I would start at f11 though)
  • Low ISO (100 or 200)
  • Daylight white balance (you can tweek in post!)
  • Use the bulb setting. Expose for about 5 seconds (again, experiment!)
  • And get creative with your composition! (people, skyline, framing, etc)

So last year, I was up in New York during the holiday and decided to seek out a place to watch the Macy’s fireworks. Again, not exactly the crowd person at heart, so I did a little searching. After a little detective work (actually, it was pretty easy to find out), I pin pointed the exact location of the barges for the show, (I think they vary that from year to year?) and decided a balcony room at the Williamsburg Hotel in Williamsburg was the way to go! The shot above and the images below were from that view 🙂

And I created this video below from those images, a few more, and some clips I had been capturing of the show. (first time videoing fireworks too!)

And finally! I had mentioned a video I uploaded today about some tips and tricks for actually capturing these magical displays. I get into a bit more detail and get a little off topic (of course) in my own unique way. Enjoy and Happy 4th! Be safe out there and Happy Birthday America!

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