07.03.2012 Marielle

How to take FUN Firework Photos!

Every single year on the 4th of July we do the same thing…attend an Oakland A’s baseball game (and they always, always lose!). After the game, they open up the field & let everyone down onto the field to lay out blankets & watch an incredible firework show. It is one of my very favorite things to do-it’s so fun to be ON the baseball field, laying on a blanket with those I love & watching a spectacular firework show.

Last year I got bored of taking photos of the fireworks. Plain old photos of fireworks just weren’t doing it for me. I made sure to capture a few photos of the fireworks in their beauty like this:

It’s just a plain old photo of fireworks. Nothing dazzling, spectacular or out of the ordinary. And to be honest, I didn’t want 300 photos like the photograph above to remember how beautiful the fireworks are. So I decided to play with my camera & get a photograph that was more exciting & more unusual than the typical firework photo. I thought it would be fun to give you a short tutorial on how to get unique (read: NOT boring) photos of the fireworks that you’ll hopefully be seeing tomorrow night (after you overindulge in delicious food)! I’ll walk you through how to make photographs like these ones below with your DSLR:

Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 100, 16-35mm lens shot at F6.3 with a 7.1 second exposure

Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 100, 16-35mm lens shot at F6.3 with a 1.6 second exposure

Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 100, 16-35mm lens shot 8 with a 4 second exposure

First thing’s first: TURN OFF YOUR FLASH! Do you know why I just used caps? Because I was YELLING that through the computer! Yes, first thing-turn off your darn flash! By using the manual mode on your camera, you’ll be able to tell it how to let in enough light.

You are going to start with a LOW ISO. Lower ISO’s let in less light. I chose my ISO for these photographs to be 100.

Next you’ll want to set your aperture. Normally I like to shoot with a really wide aperture that lets in tons of light. For these photographs, I chose an aperture that isn’t completely wide but that’s wide enough to let in enough light. My aperture for these photographs ranged between a 6.3 and an 8.

Shutter speed is always the last thing I choose when I’m taking a photograph. I choose my ISO, then my aperture & THEN my shutter speed before I take the photograph. The slower your shutter speed is, the more light you’ll let into the photograph. For this reason, if you shutter speed is lower than 100 & you are hand holding your camera, your photos will be blurry. But for this scenario, it’s totally okay. Actually, that’s what we are going for here.

My shutter speed for these photographs ranges between 4-7 seconds. After I choose my shutter speed, hit the shutter button & as the photograph is taking, I will MOVE my camera around until the photograph is finished taking. Since you chose a long exposure, this might feel like it’s taking FOREVER. Because let’s be honest…4 seconds in real life goes by super fast, but 4 seconds in camera life feels like 10 minutes! BUT that means that while your camera is recording the information & while you are moving your camera up & down, each color is being recorded. I sometimes move my camera in a figure 8 motion, sometimes side to side & sometimes both. Believe me-people might look at you like you are crazy (nothing new to me-people look at me like I’m crazy every day!) but when you see how amazing the photographs can look, you won’t care who is looking at you like you are cray-cray.

I hope this blog post was able to help out at least one person! One of my favorite things about photography is that it’s all about trial and error. If you can’t figure out the settings right away, try again until you get the kind of photo you want. Wishing you all a very wonderful, safe & beautiful 4th of July! I am so grateful to live in a beautiful nation that I am lucky enough to call home. Now get your cameras & start moving!!!

About the Author

Marielle Hi! My name is Marielle Hayes and I am a photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area. I love to travel, bargain hunt and spend time with my husband, our daughter and our Boston Terrier. Enjoy my blog and leave me some comments to let me know what you think!

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