Australia is world-renowned for its firework displays - New Year's Eve, Australia Day and ANZAC Day, to name a few public events that are often commemorated with a bang. And there is never any shortage of spectators taking in the delights and wanting to memorialise them through photography. However, there is a general misconception that photographing fireworks is a difficult or even impossible task. But with just a few tips and the right accessories, you can capture the rockets and starbursts like a pro.
Steady on. Keeping your camera still is the general rule when shooting anything that moves: in order to capture it well, you should be motionless. Using a tripod or monopod will ensure that all the movement happens in front of the camera and you'll avoid the amateur giveaway of turning the fireworks' trajectory into squiggly lines and blurred colours.
Remote control. Use a remote shutter release to minimise movement. After a tripod, a remote release is your best friend. The less you touch the camera or tripod, the more you will avoid any evident bumps or shakes in your shots. The remote shutter also allows you to manipulate the exposure of your shot, which gives you more creative control.
No flash. When photographing firework displays, leave your flash at home or turned off. Although these light shows occur in darkness, the fireworks themselves produce more than enough light to illuminate the shot. Adding more light will just wash out the background and ruin the overall effect. Use flash only when you want to illuminate people or objects in the foreground, close to the camera.
Take your time. You can achieve great results if you adjust the shutter speed as the fireworks move across the sky. The bulb setting is great to retain control over the length of your exposure, as it allows you to keep the shutter open. You can time the exposure from when the rocket goes up in the air until the firework has finished exploding - just make sure not to over expose the image.
Be experimental. If there is enough time during the fireworks display, switch lenses and play around with different focal lengths and angles. A wide angle lens is a good choice if you would like to capture the surroundings and get more than one explosion into a frame. To get a close-up shot from the firework, you can either choose a zoom lens (ideally 200mm or more) or try your luck with a longer focal length. Alternatively, you can just crop wider angle images on your computer to get interesting frames.
No filters. Filters are perfect to give your shots that special touch. However, polarising filters that are used to select which light rays enter your camera lens will distort the most important component of fireworks shots: colour. Make sure to remove polarising filters before the fireworks display starts to get authentic results. On the other hand, UV filters that absorb ultraviolet rays won't impact on the desired outcome, so you can leave them on.