What Fourth of July celebration is without fireworks? If you’re going to a big celebration, chances are this will be the highlight of your photography efforts this holiday. But firework photography can be hard to get just right. So here are some tips to¬†shoot some magical fireworks photography.

Camera and settings

Always use a tripod when shooting fireworks. In the dark, you’ll need to capture the colors and lights just right, and you’ll accomplish this by avoiding camera shake.

If you can, you get a cable or wireless shutter release to avoid any chance of jostling the camera.

When setting your camera, use a low ISO, like 200 and an f/11 aperture. This will introduce less noise into the images.

Set your camera to manual focus and adjust your lens before shooting. You shouldn’t have to change this unless you change your angle or image focus, like if you decide to photograph people watching the fireworks.

Composition

Look for other objects you can put in the photo. One, it’ll add interest to the image, and two, it’ll provide a reference point for the fireworks. Just shooting them against a black sky hides their true size and won’t look as exciting in the end. The exception is if you’re aiming to compile two images together.

Make sure your photo frame allows for the height of the fireworks. It may be taller than you’re expecting if you’re close, or shorter if you’re seated further away.

Taking the shot

Seating permitting, sit so that you’re shooting into the east rather than the west. In summer, there may be traces of the sunset which throw off or overexpose your image. Sometimes you can make this work with the right composition, but if you want those bright sparkles against a black sky, point your lens to the east.

Since fireworks go up pretty fast, try some bursts to see how they work with your settings. This also gets you the option to pick photos you like out of a bunch.

Finally, firework shots are trial and error. From adjusting the length of your shot for the firework heights to realizing there’s still a little daylight left in the day, So be ready to learn from your mistakes and try again.

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