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How to Photograph Fireworks on the 4th!

Happy Summer! It’s time to capture some of the beauty in the sky above you, as we celebrate Independence Day. These techniques work anywhere in the world. The photo above was made in Hong Kong on New Year’s Day.

Exposing for bursts of light

Make sure you are shooting on manual exposure. The key to photographing fireworks is timing your exposure so you can capture multiple bursts without over exposing your image. Using a low ISO, 100, is a good place to start. This will give you longer exposures and more bursts. Your shutter speed will determine how long the trails from the fireworks are. My preference is a shutter speed that ranges somewhere from 4 to 15 seconds. Set the aperture at f8 or f11.

Another trick is to set your camera on bulb and plug in your remote shutter release like this Vello RS-N1II Wired Remote Switch for Select Nikon 10-Pin Cameras. This release is also available for Canon, Sony and others. This release is less than $8! Lock your shutter open with the remote release. Use a piece of dark cardboard in front of the lens between bursts. When one occurs remove the cardboard. When it ends, hold the card in front of the lens again. After multiple bursts have occurred, use the release to close the shutter. Now you have multiple blasts on a single frame.

 

4th of July fireworks over Boston’s Charles River

Use a tripod

To eliminate camera shake, as a result of slow shutter speeds use a tripod. I also recommend using the remote shutter release so you won’t have to touch the camera when opening the shutter. Hang your camera bag on the tripod to weigh it down for greater stability. This technique is great for longer exposures and windy days. You want to block off the eyepiece to keep stray light form entering the back of the camera and affecting your image. If your camera has a mirror lock up feature, you also want to use this on longer exposures.

 

July 4th fireworks over Boston.

The photo below is from the end of the summer fireworks in Oak Bluffs, on Martha’s Vineyard. I was part of the White House Press Pool covering President Obama’s summer vacation. While we were on hold as the President was at a private event, I noticed the fireworks over the harbor. I did not have a tripod with me, nor a cable release (not items you usually need in the White House Press Pool). I propped my camera on a fence post and gently touched the shutter. Rules are only guidelines, you can photograph fireworks without a trip, although not ideal, you just need to be flexible and creative with your methods

Fireworks over Oak Bluffs harbor, on Martha’s Vineyard.

Fireworks photos can be valuable!

Not every fireworks photo will end up on the cover of “Newsweek.” I can tell you there is a market for them.  Keep location and date shot with the photograph.  You never know when the 4th of July holiday photo you made will turn into a payday! Read how to make your fireworks even more colorful in this post from Kevin Ames.

Hope to see you at my upcoming Niagara area workshop with Doug Hansgate, August 18-20 Rick Friedman & Doug Hansgate Lighting Workshop

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