My Best Tip for Photographing the Fireworks on 4th of July

4th of July FireworksI only got a chance to photograph fireworks once but it is definitely something I look forward to do more often. The 4th of July holiday is coming and it is typical to have fireworks going on everywhere here in the US. I remember last year checking a couple of web sites that were offering tons of tips on how to best photograph fireworks and I tried to apply those tips the best I could.

In my case, on every 4th of July since I moved to the US, I have been with my wife and, more recently, my kids also. So, when the fireworks are exploding in the sky, we are together watching and marveling at them. So what about taking pictures? I think this is the time we should let today's technology to do the "dirty" work for us and enjoy this great time with our loved ones. All you need is really a camera on a tripod (or other stable surface) and a "Intervalometer" to trigger the camera multiple times while you watch the fireworks. It may not be perfect, but it is much better than not taking any pictures at all.

An Intervalometer, or a camera remote controller as is sometimes called, basically allows you to define how many pictures you camera should take and how often. Also, if you set you camera to "Bulb" mode, then you can also specify how long the exposure should be.

Of course, it is best to fire some test shots first and set the camera to either Manual or Bulb modes, to determine what are the appropriate shutter speeds, aperture, and ISO settings you would be using (i.e.: exposure). You should also set your camera focus to manual and focus where the fireworks would be. Don't rely on auto focus here since the camera might focus where it is not supposed to or, not be able to focus at all and not take any pictures. Once you are happy with the settings, then specify the number of shots and the interval between them. Once you set these parameters, then you can just sit down and relax and let the intervalometer and the camera do the rest.

The intervalometer model I use is the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3. It does all the specified above. The only issue I found is that it has no way to distinguish when you set the mirror lockup option in your camera. So, if you are shooting in Bulb mode, and you set the shutter speed to e.g., 60 seconds, the Controller will trigger the camera, as it should, but the camera will just lock the mirror, and then it will wait 60 seconds until it is triggered again and, only this time, it will start taking the picture. In this case, I tend not to use the mirror lockup option.

For the actual fireworks, and considering that they happen during the sunset or when it is dark already, basically you want to have your camera on a tripod, with a wide angle lens covering a region of the sky where the fireworks would be. But you also should show some of the surroundings to give your pictures more context and add more interest. It may be dark, but remember that when the fireworks go on, it will be brighter, so you may want to compensate for that when determining your exposure. Try to extend the shutter speed as much as possible so you can fill the frame with multiple explosions and display also each fireworks trajectory.

The image that illustrates this post was shot last year. Not that bad, I think, but there are tons of fantastic pictures of fireworks out there for you to see and get inspired. Just Google then and you will also find tons of valuable tips.

So this was my best tip: get an intervalometer and spend the actual fireworks with your family and friends while the camera does the rest. Happy 4th of July!!!