Photographing Fireworks

by | Published on July 3, 2013 | Last updated on October 17, 2018 | Guides

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Last weekend was quite busy as we started our project of exploring as much of Central Alberta as possible this summer (find out more about our plans here). Once we got the kids to bed on Monday night I decided to learn more about photographing fireworks. So I quickly made sure that the memory cards had been cleared from the day’s adventures, excited by this last minute challenge.

I’ve never really attempted night time or low light pictures before, so first stop was a quick Google search for some ideas on how to pull this off.

Some of the common themes were to make sure you have a tripod, shoot in manual mode using settings around ISO 100, f/11 at 0.5 second and to simply go out to experiment. Armed with this limited knowledge I headed out for what I thought would be a quieter vantage point: Oxbow Park. Apparently this was an obvious choice of location judging by the number of people who showed up there. After some walking around I found a quiet spot were most of the cars and their headlights were out of sight.
My first few attempts weren’t exactly a success… Mostly black with a hint of light where the glorious fireworks should have been. As the show went on I played with various settings until I found something that gave some decent results. To tell the truth, I was so focused on getting the pictures that I don’t remember seeing any of the firework.

A few tips

While using a tripod was mentioned in every article I read, one qualifier was missing: you need a good quality tripod. Mine clearly showed its limitations and will be replaced shortly.

The settings that worked the best for me were around the ISO 200, f/5.3 at 0.6 second. I was using a Nikon D5000 with the kit lens and spent a fair amount of time afterward in Lightroom. I had chosen to leave the camera set in one position while playing with the other settings which resulted in a lot of cropping to be done.