Here’s a masterpiece of a photographic artist, Jeff Krause, and his fireworks captured during an amazing night at Epcot, Florida. Awesome, isn’t it? Magnificent shot of a huge fireworks display during events on July 4th, 2012. Curious what gear he used for this shot? It was a Canon EOS 7D with a 17-70mm lens. Let get into more details: 23 seconds exposure time and f/13.0 aperture with ISO speed 100. I bet Jeff took his time for preparation and planning, as every real artist. Because you know it’s easy to admire, it’s way more difficult to capture such beauties. Years ago when I was a beginner in photography I asked myself why the shots are not clear despite the gear put at work? The answer received with the experience accumulated over the years was quite simple: it’s not about the gear, it’s the photographer’s ability to get the most out of it. It takes time, it takes as mentioned above, preparation and planning. Patience and hard work. Results are coming. So, follow these advices if you want to get stunning shots of fireworks, no matter it’s the New Year’s Eve celebration or a National Day or a local party:
Always use a tripod. No matter you’re using a compact digital camera or a DSLR camera, use a tripod. You don’t necessarily need a tall one, of course you want to cover the scene, you just need one to offer your camera a solid base and to avoid the blurred pictures when hand held. You’ll use a slow shutter speed so you need your camera stay still during the capturing of the fireworks display. A camera tripod doubled by a solid base will get you the desired outcome. Put it on a steady surface. Even the roof of your car is ok for the shooting as long as it stays still.
Second tip, arrive early at the scene if you want to get the best spot. Otherwise other photographers might take it leaving you with fewer options. You already saw a lot of fireworks and you know the places are really crowded, best spots are first-come first-served. Of course you have to keep the spot for you so you have to be prepared for a long night stuck in one place. Choose you perfect spot by also considering including some man-made elements in your pictures, such as a building or a monument, why not, a skyline if you know it’s possible from previous years or events.
Never use higher ISO settings than ISO 200. In fact ISO 100 would be the best one if possible. Go for higher values such as ISO 800 or ISO 1600 and you’ll only get grainy looking images leaving you at the hand of Photoshop or other editing software which might damage the clarity of your pictures.
Then is crucially important to pre focus your compact digital camera on an area that will allow the pictures to stay sharp, such as the area the fireworks are being generated from; or use manual focus with your DSLR camera before or during the first burst. It will save you lot of effort for your camera will keep the setting for the next shots, of course, if you remain in the same spot and use the same focal length.