Fireworks come but once a tear for many of us. It calls for specialized settings in order to get the most out of our 30-40 minute opportunity each year. I know I’ve always got to go back and review previous year’s camera settings in order to improve my crop of good ones each time I shoot.

Gear

An absolute must is a tripod (or, at the very least a bean or rice bag on which to rest your camera). Stability is important.

Almost any camera will work, preferably one with manual settings. You want to be in control of almost everything, as the camera will be seeing all the dark sky and try to over-expose your scene. The camera should have a remote shutter release, or as many of the newer cameras have, a WiFi connection with a phone app like the Lumix and Olympus cameras. This ensures the camera is not jostled when starting the exposures.

Wild and crazy

I take my fireworks shooting to an extreme. Since there are only one or two opportunities each year I try to get the most out of it. Here is a setup I use for multiple cameras. A Tripad supports several iOS devices. I’m using an iPhone and two iPads. Each device is paired with a camera. Because of the Lumix Image App I can see what each camera is viewing on each device and fire frames at will. Each camera has a different lens and some slightly different settings of shutter speed and/or aperture.

Note: For those that haven’t seen a Tripad it makes a table using your tripod for legs. Unfortunately, they are no longer made. You might try Tether Tools for pro-grade accessories or cobble some sort of stand for support. If you are using a single camera a table is not necessary.

My over-the-top setup. Number 1 is highlighting the Peak Design camera release clip. Number 2 shows two iPads and an iPhone for remote control and triggering the cameras

Number one shows the Peak Design camera strap clasps that allow a camera strap to be added or taken away very quickly. All of my cameras are so equipped. That way I can also mix and match the size and type of straps depending upon the shooting day.

Settings

Here are some settings that have worked for me. Depending upon your type of camera you may need to make some adjustments. For example, since I photograph with micro four-thirds cameras, my preferred ISO is 200. I recommend you shoot with the native ISO for your camera. For most full-frame cameras the native ISO would be 100. Check with your camera manufacturer to confirm.

Single frame with multiple bursts. Taken with the Lumix GX8 and Lumix G Vario 35-100 f/2.8 lens, 1s, f/11, ISO 200.

I’ve had photographers in the past ask me to review why they had less than stellar results and part of it is too high an ISO that was set because it was dark. Remember that we are photographing the burst and not the scene in front of us.

One thing for those with Lumix or other advanced amateur cameras such as the Lumix FZ2500, Lumix G7, etc., be sure to look in the Scene Menu for Artistic Nightscape (as a former Lumix Ambassador Lumix cameras are the ones with which I am familiar). This setting will allow you to have a longer exposure with a smaller aperture. Test this before you go out because you will have to tweak settings just a bit and you don’t want to not be ready for the big show. Get out at night and choose the setting and change the front dial until you get a shutter speed of two to five seconds. The aperture should be f/8 or above.

If you are in a dark area, you can practice a bit with car trail lights to get an idea how things are working. Then you can keep an eye on the live view image and adjust the exposure compensation to tweak your captures to taste.

Results from when you let the camera make decisions for you. Or, you leave the shutter open too long or use too high of an ISO. Shot at 3.2s, f/9, ISO 400.

Post production

Individual bursts assembled in post production. I’ll share some ideas after the Fourth of July on some fun ways to use the fireworks and some Post production ideas.

There are a number of ways to get the best from your fireworks files and different ways to use them. I’ll share some post production tips and tricks in a future post.

Have fun getting your images!

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob