There’s something amazing about celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks. When I watch them shoot into the sky, it’s almost as if my excitement is materialized right before my eyes. These vivid displays take me right back to Fourth of July’s of my childhood – the smell (and taste!) of good barbeque, the Summer sun on my skin, and the joy of lighting up the night sky with an array of color. But as epic as they can be, capturing fireworks on film can be majorly frustrating if you don’t know what you’re doing. Between low lighting, shaky hands and unpredictability, it can be difficult to get a decent shot – and that can be a total buzz kill. Luckily, you don’t have to face these issues. To help you master the art of firework photography, I’ve outlined the ideal camera settings and tips to help you nail the perfect shot. Even if your pictures don’t come out perfect, you’ll be able to use BeFunky’s Photo Editor to crop the perfect shot, improve exposure, balance color and make all your firework photography really shine.
Setup for Success
To start, you should secure a good shooting location before the crowds rush in. Make sure you have a clear vantage point and that no bobbing heads will be in your frame. This is also a good opportunity to visualize your shot ahead of time. Observe your surroundings, find foreground and background elements and consider how to incorporate them into your shot.
Next, start setting up your camera. One of the simplest ways to get better firework photos is to stabilize your camera. Since you’re shooting light and you’ll be using longer shutter speeds, even the slightest movement of the camera can cause light trails and blurriness. To prevent this from happening, simply use a tripod. You can even take it a step further and snap your photos with a wireless remote, preventing any chance of shaky hands from ruining your photo.
But, to really capture the beauty of fireworks on film, you’ll have to shoot in manual mode. Auto focus can be great, but it almost never performs well in low light situations and can leave you with lots of image noise. Although manual mode takes longer to setup, the results are always worth it. Also, once you’re setup, you won’t need to change your camera settings again during the firework display.
Dial in Your Exposure Settings
When in manual mode, you’ll want to make sure your aperture setting is letting the right amount of light in. Since firework photography takes place at night, it’s a common perception that you need a high aperture to get well-lit pictures, but that isn’t the case. The light given off by fireworks is actually quite bright, and is better captured with mid to small apertures (usually anywhere between an f/8 and f/16 produce great results).
You will also want to customize shutter speed, which can be a delicate balancing act when it comes to fireworks. Since they are in motion from the moment they shoot into the sky until they fade away, you will want to use a long exposure time. But not too long! As I said earlier, the light fireworks emit is bright, and can easily overexpose your images. To find a balance that avoids blurriness from motion and overexposure from light, try taking a few practice shots. Shutter speeds between two and ten seconds usually provide the best results, but the exact number you use will depend on your lighting conditions.
Next, adjust your camera’s ISO. Many believe that ISO should be turned high for firework photography, but when too high it can be harmful to your photo quality. Even though you will be capturing images at nighttime, the light given off by fireworks is powerful. To avoid overexposure, grain and noise you should set your ISO between 100 and 200.
Take the Guessing out of Firework Photography
Lastly, and most importantly, you will need to adjust focal length and timing. Since you won’t know exactly when or where the fireworks are going to explode, these can be tricky factors to determine. When choosing focal length, try your best to estimate where the fireworks will explode. You can scan the area for clues, or search for photos online from last years display. Then, make an educated decision for focal length based on your location to the estimated point of explosion. For timing, all you can do is try your best to anticipate the fireworks. Keep in mind you will want to hit the shutter just before they explode, so be ready and alert!
Set Your Photos Alight With BeFunky’s Photo Editor
Whether or not you have a decent camera when you’re trying to photograph fireworks, you can add some magic into your shots with BeFunky’s easy-to-use Photo Editor. In a few simple steps, you’ll be able to use it to improve exposure, add photo effects and make sure all of your firework photos looks their absolute best.
Quick TipTry using BeFunky’s Collage Maker to tell the whole story of your Fourth of July experience.
Perfectly Frame up Your Firework Shots
It can be difficult to get the perfect crop when taking photos of fireworks. Sometimes a single firework will fly into the sky, and other times many shoot in succession, filling the sky and your camera frame. But either way, BeFunky’s Crop tool makes it simple for you to crop photos and fix-up your firework images to make them really pop.
To start, upload your image to the Photo Editor and select Crop from the Edit menu. Then, you’ll be able to customize your photo retouching tool. It will automatically be set to the Free Form option, but you can choose any of BeFunky’s Aspect Ratio presets to quickly achieve your desired crop. If you want to continue using Free Form, than you can personalize your tool even more. Just adjust Orientation, Width and Height until they create the perfect crop for your firework photos.
Quick TipTo make sure the dimensions of your crop stay perfectly proportioned, click the Locked Aspect Ratio button.
Create Bright, Beautiful Firework Photography
Exposure is the trickiest part of firework photographs. No matter how much time you spend adjusting your camera’s settings, sometimes exposure just doesn’t come out as planned. But even if that happens, you can use BeFunky’s Exposure tool to balance lighting and make your photos look their best.
To get started, select Exposure from the Edit menu of BeFunky’s picture editor. Then, you will have several options to improve exposure. Turn Brightness down to darken the night sky and make your images stand out. Increase Contrast to brighten the appearance of each spark and make the fireworks in your photos really stand out. Or, boost Highlights to reveal even more color and create a luminescent glow. Then, if your image’s exposure still needs improvement, you can increase the Shadows to create an darker and more dramatic sky, or add Fill Light to the illuminate the sky with soft, diffused color.
Quick TipSelect the Paint feature to only apply the Exposure tool to the parts of your photo that need it most.
Enhance Exposure and Correct Color
For a more detailed approach to adjusting exposure and correcting color in your firework photos, click on the Levels tool from the Edit menu of BeFunky’s Photo Editor. Once you do, you’ll see a range of options for improving exposure. To make an adjustment that guarantees great results, you can use BeFunky’s Preset exposure photo effects. For fireworks, I usually use Increase Contrast or Darken, which instantly improve exposure and really make fireworks pop. But, you can always stick to Default mode and adjust the settings manually.
If you stick to Default mode, first choose a Channel. This will allow you to take control of specific colors in your photo. If you would like to control the reds in your photo, click on R. To alter the greens in your image, choose G. To change the blue tones, select B. Or, to take control of all three, click on RGB. For the best photo effects, you should choose the Channel that corresponds with the colors in your firework photos. Then, use the histogram to control your image’s tonal range and Input Levels.
On the far left of the histogram you’ll see a black triangle, which represents the darkest area of your photo. Drag it to the right, and it will force the dark tones in your image into the highlights, darkening your images overall appearance. On the far right is a white triangle, which represents the lightest areas of your image. Drag it towards the left, and it will brighten your image’s highlights and give it an overall lighter appearance. Fireworks tend to look better with a wide tonal range, so be careful not to drag either triangle too far.
Quick TipIf you make any mistakes, you can undo your edits by selecting Erase from the Paint menu.
Set your camera to the ideal settings, take stunning firework photography and then use BeFunky to edit your images and make them really shine!