Top 10 Tips for Best NYE Fireworks Images
The fireworks displays at New Year's Eve can make for some fantastic images. However, many people find it difficult to know what settings they should use on their cameras and the best way to create great images.
To help out here are our top 10 tips for taking fantastic fireworks images.
1. Keep your Camera steady.
This is probably the most important thing. You will be using longer exposure times and keeping your camera still is really important so that you do not get blurred images. Even a small amount of movement in your camera can create a large amount of image blur.
Obviously, the best way to keep your camera steady is to use a tripod (even a small tripod is better than no tripod!) but if you don’t have a tripod try to keep your camera steady by holding it against a solid object such as a wall, seat or even a tree.
This can be a difficult one as most good vantage points can be very crowded. It can often be worthwhile looking at a few different locations before the night and remember that you don’t always have to be close to the action, sometimes being slightly further away and using a telephoto lens can give better results.
It can also be a little tricky trying to figure out where the fireworks will go off before the show has started but it can really help if you can get a rough idea of where they will be (you can often find out this information from the event organizers). Also, remember to think about what height they will be. It may be great being under a tree in the day but it’s no good if it blocks the view of the sky at night.
If it’s a large fireworks display consider the breeze. Lots of fireworks mean lots of smoke. If you are downwind then you may find that the smoke interferes with the quality of your images.
Finally, experiment with your images. Try wider angles or more telephoto, include people in the frame, add more foreground etc. Images of just fireworks may be nice, but they can often get a bit boring and become a little cliché. Adding extra elements into the frame will often add to the image rather than distract.
3. Watch your Horizons
While a lot of your image may be of the sky it’s still important to make sure that your horizon line is straight. Images that are on an angle can be off-putting to look at and it can take a lot of time to manually adjust the horizon later on.
Many people who take firework images will set the camera up to shoot in a horizontal (landscape) format as this is typically what is used for landscape/cityscape type images. However, as fireworks can go quite high into the sky it can often be better to shoot your images in a vertical (portrait) format. This allows you to get the most out of the foreground and background while still getting the most out of the fireworks.
5. Spare batteries
No doubt you will want to take lots of images and it’s very likely that you have been waiting quite a while for the fireworks to start. However keep in mind that longer exposure times will use up more of your battery power and you will get fewer images on a fully charged battery than you may expect.
Spare batteries are inexpensive and can save you the disappointment of missing out on getting some great images.
6. Don’t use flash
Trying to use flash will not only not work, it will also make it very difficult for your camera to get a proper exposure. This is important to remember if you are using a compact camera with an in-built flash, as the camera will generally turn the flash on automatically as it assumes you are taking night-time images and will require the flash on. You may need to go into your camera's menu and turn the cameras auto-flash mode to OFF.
Getting correct exposure can be difficult. While the camera thinks it’s looking at a dark night sky, the fireworks themselves are quite bright. If you use your camera on program or auto modes this can create a real problem as the camera will set an exposure for the overall scene not for the fireworks. Manual mode will be the best way to get correct exposure.
The combination of shutter speed, aperture and ISO you choose will make a big difference to the look of the image, and while Aperture and ISO are important, it’s your shutter speed that will make the biggest difference to your image. Too short a shutter speed and the image becomes under-exposed and you won’t capture the full size and movement of the fireworks. Too long and the image becomes washed out.
There are a lot of variables to take into account and all fireworks displays will be slightly different so you will need to take a few images and alter the settings as you go, however, a one to two-second shutter speed should be a good starting point, with an aperture of f8 and ISO 200.
Many cameras default setting for ISO is ‘Auto’ meaning that the camera will change the ISO to suit the available light. In low light situations, such as fireworks, the camera will automatically increase the ISO to brighten up the image, however, this will overexpose the fireworks.
Make sure to change the ISO to manual instead of auto (don’t forget to change it back after you have finished though).
Many cameras will struggle to focus in low light, especially when the major part of the image is just dark sky. If the lens cannot focus then there is a good chance that the camera will not let you take an image. To get around this it is best to set your camera to manual focus and estimate where you will focus (usually infinity or just before).
9. Compact cameras
While many compact cameras will allow you to set you exposure manually, if your camera doesn’t, don’t give up straight away. Many compact cameras will have ‘Scene’ modes that you could use; in fact, you may find that you have a ‘fireworks’ scene mode built-in to your camera. If not then experiment with ‘Night’ or ‘Party’ mode.
10. Check results
It’s always good to take a couple of shots and then check how they look. This gives you the ability to fine-tune your setting before taking all your images. However, don’t be tempted to check every image as you take them; this will slow you down and you may well miss some of the best action.