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Thursday, July 4, 2019

How to Take Photos of Fireworks

There’s nothing like a loud bang and a bright flash of light to really make an occasion feel special. New Year’s Eve, Halloween, and of course, the Fourth of July are all celebrated with fireworks. They’re a pretty tricky subject to photograph, though, so let’s break down what you need to know.

What Makes a Good Firework Photo?

For all the flash and bang in real life, fireworks on their own are a pretty boring photo subject. Totally isolated, they look like something computer generated. Instead, the best firework photos have something else happening in the image. It might be people in the foreground or just the fireworks bursting over a city, but there’s something else going on.

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When the pyrotechnicians let off fireworks, they do it to get the best show. This means that fireworks are let off individually or in small bursts one after the other. It’s rare that the whole sky will be filled all at once. This looks great in real life, but in a photo, a single firework going off looks anticlimactic. Most firework photos are actually long exposure images that capture all the fireworks that went off over a 10 second, 20 second, or even longer period.

The Technical Stuff

To capture a photo of fireworks, you’ve got two options: the first (and the bad one) is to hand-hold your camera and try and time a photo so you capture the fireworks as they go off. The second (and good solution) is to set your camera up on a tripod and use a long exposure time so that the fireworks burst at some point during it. This is the method I’ll be discussing.

For the best photos, get to the location of the firework display early, before the sun has fully gone down. Set up your tripod and frame the shot where you think the fireworks are going to be. You might need to adjust things later, but getting there early will let you get the best position and angle.

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