As we come into the festive season after nearly two long years of covid lockdowns and restrictions, people are eager for some excitement and fireworks to light up their night and come into 2022 with greater optimism about the future ahead.
If you’re thinking of heading out to capture some fireworks on New Years Eve but are unsure of where to start, hopefully this guide will give you some direction.
Settings and Equipment
First I’ll cover camera settings and equipment, since settings and gear will ultimately be what gives you the firework shots you’re chasing. After settings and equipment I’ll share some important, make-or-break tips.
1. Use A Tripod
To achieve the best results it is highly recommended to set your camera up on a tripod. This will guarantee that you won’t get a blurry image from taking longer exposures of up to 30 seconds or longer and capture multiple firework bursts in a single frame. If you’re familiar with exposure blending, you can take multiple long exposures and blend them together to encapsulate as much colour and explosions into the image as you can.
2. Set Your Aperture To f/11 – f/16
Your aperture should be around f/11 to f/16 to have as much in focus as possible, especially if you’re utilising your surroundings to be contributing elements to the image.
3. Set ISO to 200 or lower
Lower ISO is almost always better in any photographic situation. Especially at night time where you may see quite a lot of grain. Typically when doing astrophotography, you can see photographers use an ISO of 6400+, however, because the fireworks are so bright, you will find that your sensor won’t need that extra sensitivity to light. In most scenarios, with fireworks, you can use an ISO of 200 or lower, and adjust your shutter speed accordingly.
4. Choose your shutter speed
Your shutter speed can be anywhere from 1 second to 60 seconds or longer! It all depends on the intensity of the fireworks in front of you, and how many fireworks you want to get in a single frame. Although, to get the optimum exposure, it is highly recommended you choose a shutter speed and do a few test shots before the fireworks go off. This way, you can see just how exposed your foreground and background is, and you can adjust your ISO and shutter speed accordingly to find the sweet spot between shutter speed, ISO and the correct exposure of other elements in your image.
However, as it’ll be night time, you shouldn’t try expose your foreground and background to be very bright. This will not only look unnatural, but the fireworks may be overexposed when they go off. Trial and error!
5. Use a remote shutter
Using a remote shutter or shutter release cable will ensure that during all the craziness of the explosions, you don’t bump your camera and ruin the shot! Especially if your shutter speed is significantly longer. If you don’t have a remote shutter, instead set your self-timer to 2 or 5 seconds, click the shutter and remove your hands from the camera. Doing this will give you camera time to stop shaking from you clicking the shutter and hopefully result in a crisp image. Now that you’ve nailed the settings and got the right equipment, these extra tips will help you make sure you maximise the creative possibilities and get the most out of your situation.
Foreground and Background
Finding the right vantage point makes a world of difference in any photographic scenario.
If you’re going to be shooting in a busy place, get there a while earlier to walk around and have a look at exactly what elements will be showing in your foreground and in your background. Especially when shooting fireworks on New Years Eve in a place like Sydney, you can assume it’s going to be very busy.
You can either find a way to incorporate the people in the shot without it being distraction, find a higher vantage point, or find a different location all together, such as the image in the first part of the article underneath the harbour bridge.
If you don’t get the focusing right, it could be game over for your shot. Having an out of focus image is the make-or-breaker for a quality, crisp photograph.
However, making sure you get the right focus every shot can be quite simple by switching from auto-focus mode to manual focus mode.
You can use auto-focus mode to focus on somewhere in the scene. Once you’ve decided where you’d like to focus, switch your cameras focus mode to manual. This will disable the auto-focus mode and you’ll only be able to adjust the focus by moving the focus ring. Doing this will be a crucial step, as taking photos at night time will cause your cameras autofocus to be constantly searching for something to focus on, and with fast-moving fireworks in the mix, you might be lucky to have a shot fully in focus if you don’t switch to manual focus.
If you want to take your focus game to the next level, start with manual focus, turn on your camera live mode and zoom right in the object you’d like to focus on. Once here you can make small adjustments on your lenses focus ring to get the sharpest image possible.
Shoot, check, reshoot!
My final tip to you is shoot, check, adjust if needed and reshoot! Keep playing around with different shutter speeds, different focus lengths, a step to the left or right, portrait or landscape orientation. Get creative!