How to Take Pictures of Fireworks

Beach Portraits, How to

Jul 7, 2015

Bree Hester | Family Photographer | Cape Cod, MassachusettsEvery year I say that I am going to take pictures of the 4th of July fireworks and more often than not, I’m disappointed with the outcome. Either I’ve forgotten my tripod (necessary for fireworks, unfortunately) or I’ve missed the opportunity because I was busy talking or just plain forgot about it.

This year, I was determined to do it, and I am so happy that I did. I had so much fun taking these and even though they are far from perfect, I love them.

Bree Hester | Family Photographer | Cape Cod, MassachusettsBree Hester | Family Photographer | Cape Cod, MassachusettsHere’s how I did it:

1. The week before the 4th, I started looking for the little thingy that connects my camera to the tripod. (I know that I am not alone in the fact that every time I need to use my tripod I spend more time looking for that little piece than actually taking pictures.) If you can’t find it, Amazon to the rescue. This year, I ordered three spares.  You really do need a tripod to take these. The shutter needs to be really slow.

Next year, I will also have a shutter release. I think that would really help with clarity and blur.

2. Set yourself up early. We were on the beach in Falmouth Heights, and I got everything ready while there was still daylight. Set up your tripod. Attach the camera to the release plate. Dial in your settings. This is hard to do in the dark, so get set up and ready to go. You can use your iphone flashlight in a pinch. I also used the info button the on bottom of my Nikon to help me with settings while I was shooting.

Bree Hester | Family Photographer | Cape Cod, Massachusetts3. Set your focus to infinity. What does that mean? Set your lens to manual focus, and turn the dial to the infinity symbol. (I used this video to learn how.)

I used an 85mm 1.4 for these images. I don’t think that there is a right/wrong lens to use, but this was the lens that I had with me, so that’s what I used. Next year, I will use a wide angle lens. It would be nice to get more of the sky and the reflection on the water.

4. Shoot in manual. There is a considerable amount of “playing around” to get your images the way that you like them. Some good places to start – set your ISO to 100, shutter between 2.5-4 seconds, and aperture between 11 and 16. I think that most of these were taken at f/5.6-8 and I’ve learned for next year to close my aperture, I blew out the highlights in a lot of the centers because I was too wide open.

Thankfully, the fireworks display was long, so I had time to play around and experiment.

Bree Hester | Family Photographer | Cape Cod, Massachusetts5. Have fun! Be creative and experiment. This isn’t about perfection, I told myself before I started that I would be really happy with 3 images. I got more than that, and even though they could be better, I had so much fun taking these. I loved it. I can’t wait for next year. Bree Hester | Family Photographer | Cape Cod, MassachusettsBree Hester | Family Photographer | Cape Cod, MassachusettsThe fireworks finale was sponsored by a breast cancer survivor. The breast fireworks might not have been intentional, but we thought it was clever. 🙂

All photos taken in Falmouth Heights, MA at Bristol Beach.

Bree Hester | Family Photographer | Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Bree Hester | Family Photographer | Cape Cod, Massachusetts

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