Fireworks photography can be tricky
Fireworks are arguably the king of any event and every photographer I know has shot them at some point in their careers. It’s frustrating, but you can’t control fireworks and unless they are shooting off the side of a building you’ll never quite know how high they’re going to fly until it’s too late!
There is plenty of room for error. Plan on turning up particularly early to find your shooting position and prepare. This style of shooting is very much similar to photographing landscapes but you have to react even quicker than usual to the ever changing colours/levels of brightness and it’s not always easy to find the best location as you’ll find the birds eye view is usually blocked by obstacles.
I normally shoot with a sturdy tripod and at the lowest ISO setting. This can be between ISO 100 to 200 at the beginning of the show with my apertures usually around the F-11 mark. I use a five to six second shutter speed while using the widest lens in my bag. A 12-18mm lens can get you out of trouble if you’re stuck for distance. It all changes when the show starts depending on the brightness and timing of each set on the show list. The key is to stay calm and move all controls thoughtfully and slowly. There is never enough time but you have to remember slow is fast, Do not rush it or you may overlook something important. It helps if you have a torch too.
I do find towards the end, when the fireworks build up to their crescendo, that my shutter speed becomes quicker and the aperture gets smaller. If you are lucky the wind will be behind you pushing the smoke from the fireworks backwards. From a professional point of view it can be quite upsetting to see smoke filled photos masking the pyrotechnics after all the hard work — just to find they are not acceptable and are not commercially viable. All that waiting and stressing for nothing! That is the luck of the show.
There are a few ways of taking fireworks shots. This is just the method I have developed through experience.