By following some simple advice you can enjoy some great fireworks night photos – here's how
Updated - A tip on using flash added
Tonight in is the traditional English celebration of Guy Fawkes, or more accurately the celebration of the apprehension, in 1605, of Guy Fawkes who was plotting to blow-up the English House of Parliament using gunpowder. Throughout the beginning of November and, especially on 5th November, there are widespread fireworks parties, displays and bonfires across England. It's a great opportunity to get some colourful and dramatic photos and, of course, the tips that follow will be equally as useful for any night time fireworks event, wherever you are.
On top of that, if you've taken any good fireworks pictures, let us know and we'll display a selection in a special gallery. All rights for photos submitted remain with the photographer.
Cameras set on automatic exposure will usually be fooled into grossly over-exposing the image because the scene will be dominated by the blackness of the night sky. Use the built-in monitor screen of your camera to judge whether or not the colours in your shots are bleached out from over-exposure. If they are, either try a manual setting or use the +/- EV compensation option and experiment with minus settings.
It's possible your camera may have a fireworks or night time scene setting like this Casio EX-Z55 menu (above).
2. ISO setting
Just because it's dark, don't boost the ISO setting of your camera to compensate. The brightness of the fireworks is normally more than adequately captured at a minimum ISO of 100. If you set a faster ISO speed you increase the chances of over-exposure and possibly introduce image noise grain.
3. Shutter speed
The longer the shutter speed the longer and more dramatic the firework trails will be. But take care as anything longer than about 1/30th second will record any unsteadiness in the camera and you may need to use settings of as long as a second. If you are really serious, consider using a tripod.
You won't know exactly where rockets will burst so you will need to anticipate and, if possible, follow the trail of the rocket as it's launched. It's best to start off with a wide zoom setting and gradually zoom in as you gain confidence in guessing where rockets go. Anticipation is also required when triggering the shutter release. If your camera has a continuous shooting facility, you may wish to use it to record a burst of shots in one go. Another important tip is to use an infinity focus mode or manual focus if your camera has one, otherwise you may have autofocus problems. One option is to lock focus on a distant object and keep focus locked by half-pressing the shutter release until the right moment.
For photographing fireworks in the sky or at any reasonable distance, switch it off! All flash will do is illuminate any smoke or dust in front of the camera and spoil the picture.
But if you are photographing people close by with, for example, sparklers or torches, you can get some exciting effects by combining flash illumination and a slow shutter speed (above). The flash illuminates people and freezes the scene but the long (slow sync) shutter speed lets bright moving objects, like sparklers, leave long trails. Look for settings like slow-sync flash or use a slow manual shutter speed - say, between 1/4 and a whole second, with the flash on.
The example above was taken using slow second curtain shutter flash sync. This is where the shutter opens then just before it closes the flash is fired. The flash freezes the general scene, just before the second shutter curtain closes, at the end of the exposure rather than the beginning. With second curtain flash sync motion trails lead up to the moment the flash froze the scene instead of showing trails that continue after the scene was frozen, as would be the case normally.
6. Shoot lots
Take as many shots as you can. Fireworks don't demand highest resolution camera settings so you can use a lower resolution setting to get more shots out of your memory card.
It shouldn't need saying, but don't put yourself in danger. Keep a good distance from the display and stay away from fireworks that haven't functioned properly.