With the holiday coming up, I thought it would be nice to take a moment to go over some fun Fourth of July photography techniques. Fireworks are illegal where we live due to fire hazard, but they still host free fireworks shows in nearly every city. One time Steve thought it would be a good idea to go for a night hike above the valley (Silicon Valley) so we could view the fireworks from above, but we ended up getting lost and getting a parking ticket, haha. Another year we spent the Fourth in Denmark so we missed out on fireworks entirely. This year we’re headed to visit my family in another part of the state, so we might get to have some fun with sparklers. Today I’m sharing my best tips for how to photograph fireworks and other fun Fourth of July photo tricks. I’ve touched on long exposure photographs before in this post about how to capture motion, and photographing fireworks is very similar.
For overhead fireworks, you’ll want: a clear view, a tripod, and a remote shutter. The fireworks in the featured photos were photographed using a 22mm lens, a film speed of 100, an F-stop of 13, and a 1/13 second exposure. This gave enough time for the firework to fan out, but not enough to leave streams of light that were too long. I’ll go more in detail below
A tripod goes a long way in long-exposure photos, but a steady hand or stable place to set your camera could work as well. If your camera is not steady, the streams of light won’t appear straight or perfectly arched, they may look ‘scribbly’ instead. A remote shutter can help eliminate any shaky hand that might effect the final result.
Long exposure is essential for capturing the light’s motion in the photograph. If your shutter is not open long enough to allow the light in, you won’t get the lines shown in the photographs. On the other hand, if it is open too long the lines will be too long and won’t appear as a burst.
Manual focusing is usually necessary because the photo is usually dark before your shutter opens and the camera will not want to autofocus. Set your focus to infinity (∞) to have your fireworks in focus.
No Flash! Disable the flash on your camera or you risk your photos not being properly exposed. Equally as important is having a clear view of the fireworks, you don’t want buildings or trees that obstruct your view (or maybe you do!).
Experiment. The example settings here might not work for your situation and is dependent on the same type of lighting to work properly. You will need to adjust for light in your ISO and F-stop instead of your shutter speed so you can still capture the motion of the light.
For sparkler photos it is recommended that you use a higher F stop and ISO, such as ISO 1000, and F/15, with a shutter speed of 3 seconds. This should allow enough light to capture your design or writing, and may shed a little light on the subject as well. These settings should also work with photographing glow sticks or other light sources in motion. Remember, to write words you can either write them backwards (mirrored) or you can flip them horizontally while editing.
I hope these tips help you out for the Fourth of July, and I hope that everyone has a fun and safe holiday! Don’t forget that if you want more photo tips, check out my Photo Tips page! What are your plans for Fourth of July?