Photographing Fireworks

A longer exposure of several fireworks bursts that happened within seconds of one another.

A longer exposure of several fireworks bursts that happened within seconds of one another.

Fireworks are always a big hit with many on the 4th of July.  The noise of the loud BOOM as the fireworks are launched, then the sudden burst of colors and light.  Everyone ohs and ahs at the colors and would like to have a photo of the really cool fireworks.  Just how do you photograph something so amazing that lasts only seconds and is then very quickly gone?

I am going to share with you how the photograph above was created by me.  First, it helps to know where the fireworks will be launched into the air, scout the location during the daylight (at least an hour before the show).  Second, arrive early so you can find the best place to park and set up your camera mounted on a sturdy tripod.  Third, you will need the following equipment: a DSLR, a fully charged battery in your camera, a memory card that has room for at least 30-40 images, a tripod, and a locking (or remote) cable release.  I also had a flashlight to see where I was walking, as the 4th of July fireworks were held at the Sanders County Fairgrounds (near Plains, Montana).  I did not want to trip on any holes or obstacles while I was carrying my camera and equipment.

The technical information that follows is only for the fireworks photograph seen above in this blog entry. I had set up my tripod to its full height.  The camera lens I used for the photograph was a kit lens, 18-55mm IS II from Canon.  The lens was mounted to my Canon Rebel XS DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera.  Camera settings were as follow: I was shooting in RAW file format, ISO was set to 100, the camera was on manual (Bulb), lens was at 18mm, and the F-stop was F11.   On the lens the settings were: manual focus, the IS (Image Stabilizer) was turned off, focus was to infinity. The camera shutter was locked open for 13 seconds.  I processed the images using the Canon DPP software (the software was with my camera) and the free Picasa software program from Google.  After converting the RAW images into JPEG copies, the only adjustments I made was cropping the image to an 8×10 size, no extra or additional processing was done.

You will want to make sure you readjust where your camera is aiming once in a while, as the fireworks don’t always launch into the same section of the sky.  I have many more images from this years 4th of July celebration on my 500 PX and Flickr websites. You are welcome to look and encouraged to buy any photograph you like for yourself or as a gift to someone.

Do you think photographing the fireworks with a landmark makes a better photograph?  How could you use a fireworks photograph in your home or office?  Are there specific colors in fireworks images that make it more exciting and vibrant?  Are longer exposure photographs with more than one fireworks bursts more interesting than photographs of one fireworks burst?

About Douglas Wilks Photography

I am an advanced photographer who lives in western Montana. I create a variety of strong images using a DSLR, computer, and digital software. I am available for hire for full time, part time, or projects. Most of my images are of landscapes, still life, and events. I am always looking to improve my skills, network of friends and professionals, and portfolio. I look forward to creating new friends, contacts, and others who are interested in photography.
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