Whether you’re on the beach or at a baseball game, if you’re planning to capture some awesome fireworks photos this summer, be sure to check out this simple guide to shutter speed, gear, ISO and aperture before you head out.
For a more comprehensive education on the secrets of exposure, lighting and lenses, consider taking NYIP’s complete professional photography course.
- Shutter Speed:
From the second it’s launched from the ground until the moment the sparks really begin to fade, the explosion of a firework takes some time. That being said, you need to be careful when selecting your exposure settings. Generally, we recommend that you should have an exposure setting of at least one full second. But often, having an exposure of even 2 seconds+ can capture awesome images. If the exposure is too short, you probably won’t catch the full burst and the firework explosion shot will look kind of pitiful and underwhelming. To get that huge colorful starburst all in one shot, 1-4 seconds is the way to go.
The type of camera you choose to work with will also inevitably effect the shots you’ll achieve. It’s super easy to adjust your exposure using a DSLR. If you’re working in manual mode, you can also just use the bulb setting (B setting) to save time- or you can select shutter priority mode to control the shutter speed for you. If you’re using B setting, note that you should also be working with a cable release. If you’re using a digital point-and-shoot mode, your camera might actually have its own fireworks mode that will give you an ideal long exposure. If you instead have manual settings, we recommend you simply figure out the look you’re going for through some careful trial and error at the beginning of the fireworks show.
The right f-stop for you will depend on the ISO you choose. It’s important to keep in mind that just because the sky is inevitably going to be dark, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need a super wide aperture. In fact we’d argue that for the best shots, you should work with the opposite. To intensify the colorful bursts of fireworks, we recommend you use a smaller aperture like ƒ/8, ƒ/11, or even ƒ/16. As with your choice of shutter speed, you will also have to adjust your aperture manually.
Use this chart to help you correspond your ISO with your aperture settings properly:
ƒ/8 to 16
ƒ/11 to 22
ƒ/16 to 22