Getting nice photographies of fireworks is quite challenging. First thing that need to be done is, of course, to know in advance when and where the fireworks are going to be displayed. For people living in the US, probably the safest bet is 4th of July; in the UK one might resort to 5th of November (aka Guy Fawkes Night or simply “Bonfire night”). Last May, I happened to be in Bonn during the Rhein in Flammen festival and decided to give it a go. This is one of the pics I got, and here are some of the things I learned that night:
- Location, location, location. My biggest mistake in this occasion was not scouting the area beforehand and getting to one of the sweet spots before it was crowded. A miscalculation on the firing place (firing takes place from boats) also ended up on having a tree partially covering the display for me. Not cool.
- Focusing in the dark night is almost impossible, so turn off the autofocus, as it will only slow you down. On the bright side, most likely the fireworks will take place quite far away, so focusing at infinity should work most of the time.
- Lenses: it is necessary to find a compromise between getting nice wide angle shots or zoomed in details. Since fireworks are actually quite bright aperture is not critical, so a lens with a good range (like the 18-105 or even better an 18-200 if you are lucky enough to have one) will cover most of the shots you may want to take. Changing lenses in the middle of the show is a no-no.
- Tripod. This is not negotiable. A remote release can come handy as well but is nowhere as important as the tripod.
- Metering will not work, as there is no way of knowing in advance the amount of light a particular blast will have, so switch to manual mode and experiment with a few shutter speeds. A good idea at the beginning is using continuous shooting mode together with some auto-bracketing. Once you have the light setting figured out, turn of the bracketing, though.
- Anticipating a nice blast can be very hard. I guess this is one of the things that comes with a lot of practice. I resorted a lot to continuous shooting, which resulted in a few good shots and many rubbish ones.
dPS also has some tips on how to photograph fireworks.