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Fireworks photography

Tips For Shooting Fireworks


Singapore celebrates her 52nd birthday this year, with numerous events happening across the island in the days leading up to the grand national day parade, where visitors and locals will be treated to a spectacular display of fireworks. If you are planning on capturing this magnificent lightshow, here are some tips to ensure you’ll take home picture-perfect snaps.

Image credits: Winnie Liu 

Tip #1 Location scout before the main event

Once you know where the fireworks display will be taking place, we recommend heading down a couple of days before to try a couple of test shots to ensure you’ll achieve the composition you want. Take note of the buildings or waterfront that will be in your shot – this helps to make the final image more visually interesting. Ideally, you’ll want to be on slightly higher ground (even standing atop a flight of short steps helps) as you know how crowded it can get!

On the day itself, park yourself in your chosen spot several hours ahead of time to ensure you won’t have to jostle with a million people.

Image credits: thegirlnamedkai

Tip #2 Make sure you have the right equipment

You’ll want a sturdy tripod, remote and extra batteries. A good tripod and remote helps to eliminate camera shake (that results in blurry shots) and extra batteries are a must as you’ll be shooting long exposures, which tends to drain out power pretty quickly.

Image credits: CS Hee

Tip #3 Consider shooting with a lower ISO

Keeping your ISO low will help to prevent noise in your shot, which is not what you want in a beautiful fireworks image! Noise tends to “live” in the blue areas of your shot, and at night, you’ll have plenty of that. As you’ll also be shooting in long exposure, that tends to increase noise, so keeping your ISO down to 100-200 will help eliminate these variables.

Image credits: Zhao

Tip #4 Don’t use Live View

Live View is great, but it really eats up your battery! Coupled with shooting in long exposure, you’ll find yourself drained pretty quickly. Frame your shot using the viewfinder, then use your remote to shoot.

Image credits: Nicholas Lannuzel

Tip #5 Get your shutter and aperture right

As you will not be requiring much depth of field, you can set your aperture anywhere between f/8-f/16. The light streaks will be affected by the size of your aperture – the lower your aperture, makes them wider (and possibly overexposed) while a higher aperture results in thinner light trails.

With these settings, we recommend shooting with a shutter speed between 2-10 seconds, but of course, do test shots before the show starts to determine the brightness of the sky (lights from buildings affect this). Alternatively, you can shoot in Bulb mode.

Tip #6 Focus ahead of time and turn off AF

If you leave AF on, your camera will try to focus after every shot, which could result in you missing some great snaps as your camera tries to keep up! If you are shooting a pretty standard/still landscape that doesn’t involve people (or any other subject that would require focusing each time), or changing your angles too frequently, just set your focus and shoot away. Tip: autofocus on the first few bursts, then turn it off.

Image credits: Brian Jeffery Beggerly

Tip #7 Get the bulk of your shots early

As the displays start to die down, the sky will be filled with smoke and haze, resulting in less than pretty images. Try to get your key shots early, and leave the smoky skies for more abstract or experimental shots.

Tip #8 Leave room for your creativity

Unless you know for sure how high or wide the display of fireworks will be, shoot with a wider angle first, and zoom in later when you’ve more or less determined where they end. Experiment with both horizontal and vertical compositions – you’ll want to be familiar with your tripod to quickly switch between both for this!

Read this for more tips on capturing motion.


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