July 4th, 2014 was the day I got my first camera. Since then, I’ve been shooting local fireworks every year. After shooting the same firework show, the same way, for two years in a row, I decided this year it was time to do something different.
Let’s face it, almost all photos of fireworks look the same, and it can be pretty hard to put your own twist on them. I almost didn’t shoot photos of fireworks this year because I knew they would look the same as all the other photos I’ve already taken!
Taking Basic Fireworks Photos
If you’ve ever taken photos of fireworks with your phone, I’m sure you were very disappointed to see that they look nothing like most photos of fireworks you see. This is because most of the photos are long exposures. If they weren’t long exposures, all you’d capture would be little dots in the sky, like what your phone does.
To capture long exposure photos, I put my camera on a tripod and set my shutter speed to bulb mode. This allows me to have complete control over how long each of my exposures are, by simply holding down the shutter release, and letting go once I’m happy with the time of my exposure. I use the tripod to lock my camera in place, because if it was to move during the exposure, it would mess up the photo. I leave my ISO at 100, and usually set my aperture around f/11.
Once all of this is done, I put my camera in manual focus mode, set whatever lens I’m using to infinity focus, and wait for the fireworks to start. Once they start, I open my shutter and leave it open for as long as I want. The longer it’s open, the more fireworks will be in the one picture. I usually leave my shutter open for about 4 fireworks.
Doing it Differently
Now let’s talk about what I did different this year. I followed all of the steps I just talked about, but this time I left the head on my tripod a little loose. This allows me to freely move my camera around on the tripod, but still keep it steady if I chose to. By moving my camera around during an exposure, I’m able to blur all of the fireworks.
For most of my photos this year, I shot them like they had two layers. For the first layer, the background, I would move my camera side to side, up and down, and all around. Then, while still holding my shutter open, I would shoot the second layer normally while keeping my camera still.
This results in creating photos like what you see below.
I’m very happy with the photos that I got this year. I feel like they really stand out from most of the firework photos out there.
About the author: Jay Yeager is a Chattanooga, Tennessee-based photographer specializing in portraits and landscapes. You can see more of his work on his website, or by following him on Instagram. This article was also published here.