So the fourth of July is tomorrow, and I thought it would be a good idea to give a few pointers on getting good fireworks photographs.  Those brilliant photographs seem like they may be impossible to get, but you'd be surprised what you could get out of your camera.  Here's some tips on getting a good shot.

  1. Tripod. A tripod is a necessity.  You will have exposure times around 2 sec, so you won't be able to hold your camera still for hat long.
  2. Cable Release.  While not absolutely essential, it is preferable to have a remote way of tripping the shutter.  The motion of pressing the shutter can move the camera slightly.  If you don't have one, that's okay.  Just be careful to gently trip the shutter.
  3. Manual Mode.  I'd recommend shooting in manual mode.  Set your camera's ISO to 100 (or 200 if that's lowest on your camera) and your aperture somewhere between f/8 and f/16.  Proper exposure will depend on lots of factors, so make sure to take a few pictures and check your preview/histogram to make adjustments.
  4. Shutter Speed.  You can set your shutter speed  one of two ways.  You can try setting it to 2 sec. and then adjust if that's too long or two short.  Or, if you have a cable release and a camera that supports the feature, you can try setting your shutter speed to "bulb" (B).  Press and hold the shutter on the shutter release at the beginning of the blast you want to focus and let go at the end.  Count how long your shutter is open--don't go too long our you'll over expose the fireworks.
  5. Compose Wider.  Since you don't know know what fireworks are going to do ahead of time, it's best to compose using a somewhat wider angle, and then crop in your computer, especially if you want to catch the whole "explosion" in the frame.
  6. Take Lots of Pictures.  Since fireworks are somewhat unpredictable, and some are brighter than others, shoot many pictures and delete the ones that didn't turn out.
I think the biggest challenge you'll have is with overexposing the fireworks.  You want a relatively long shutter speed to capture the trails of light, but if it's too long, they'll be too bright.  You'll have to find the right balance for your situation, but try keeping your ISO on 100-200 and your shutter speed to 2 sec and vary your aperture to get your exposure right.  If you're shooting at f/8 and your shots are too bright, try shooting at f/11 or even f/16.