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Four creative techniques for photographing fireworks

Fireworks photography is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. The traditional approach for shooting fireworks is to set your camera on a tripod and open the shutter for a few seconds while the fireworks explode.

Last year I started experimenting with handheld fireworks photography to see what new looks I could create. I found the process to be lots of fun and I even created a few images that worked out well.

Here are four techniques you can try for creating new and interesting fireworks images.

Zoom during exposure

This method is the easiest to do of all the techniques I describe. The approach is simple but still produces some really cool images. Basically, just zoom the lens during the exposure.

Technique

  1. Set shutter speed for approximately 1/4 to 1/2s
  2. Focus on fireworks that are exploding or focus at infinity
  3. Press shutter release button. Ideally, you’ll try to time the opening of the shutter with the beginning of an explosion.
  4. Rapidly zoom the lens during the exposure

Rotate camera during exposure

Rotating the camera during the exposure will produce interesting circular patterns. If you want the rotation to appear centered around the middle of your frame, then try to rotate the camera exactly around the lens barrel.

Technique

  1. Set the shutter speed for 1/4 to 1/6s
  2. Focus on fireworks that are exploding or focus at infinity
  3. Press shutter release button
  4. Rotate the camera around the lens barrel during the time when the explosion is largest

Zoom and rotate during exposure

I like this method because it results in shapes that look like star galaxies. The key is to coordinate camera rotation at the same time you are zooming the lens.

Technique

  1. Set the shutter speed for 1/4 to 1/6s
  2. Focus on fireworks that are exploding or focus at infinity
  3. Press shutter release button
  4. Simultaneously rotate the camera with one hand and zoom the lens barrel with the other hand

Pan or shake camera during exposure

Here’s another fun approach that can result in unique images. The idea is to move the camera in random directions during the exposure.

Technique

  1. Set the shutter speed for about one second
  2. Focus on fireworks that are exploding or focus at infinity
  3. Press the shutter release button
  4. Pan the camera from right to left, from top to bottom or diagonally from corner to corner. This generally works best when the burst is at its largest size.

Summary

Fireworks photography doesn’t have to follow the traditional rules. Hopefully, these techniques give you some great ideas to try on your own.

Do you have any unique fireworks photos of your own to share? If so, leave a link down in the comments. I’d love to see them!

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