Support and Eliminating Shake
Tripods or other sturdy support are a must for fireworks photography. Even the best image stabilization technology is unlikely to be able to give you a rock solid image at 2 seconds handheld. Tripods do not have to be expensive to be stable. Even most cheap tripods have a hook on the bottom of them that is designed to hold weights. These weights provide extra stability for lightweight tripods.
A couple of wrist exercise weights tied together work wonderfully for tripod weight without being too bulky. Remember to check your tripod’s manual for weight limits. If you are not going to use a tripod, you can use anything from a pillow to your camera bag for support but be aware that each time you touch your camera it will shake slightly.
To eliminate shaky fireworks, you need to avoid shaking your camera. Some shake will happen just by the shutter raising and lowering. However, most shake comes from photographers pressing the shutter button and then releasing it. If you will be manually pressing the shutter button, do not stab the button and yank your hand back. This will cause a lot of shake.
Relax your hand on the camera and gently press the button. Leave your hand on the camera body. This is a lot like carrying a full glass across the room. The more relaxed you are, the less you shake. Alternatively, if your camera has the option of a remote release (either wired or wireless) you can nearly completely eliminate shake. It also eliminates the need for you to stand so close to your tripod and risk bumping it with your feet. Remote releases are generally available for under $50.
Because you will not be adjusting exposure for each shell, some after processing is usually required for great fireworks images. Levels, Saturation, and Contrast are the most common adjustments for fireworks photography.
Levels allow you to adjust the light quality of your image. By setting the darkest point and lightest point on your image you can dramatically increase the power of your image.
Lesson on Levels
Sometimes your fireworks images will look slightly washed out due to exposure or competition from other light sources. A quick way to correct this is to pull up the “adjust hue/saturation” control in your photo editing software. Increase the color saturation slightly (no more than +10) and then adjust the “lightness” down slightly (no more than -15) to darken the sky and add clarity to the colors.
If your images still look slightly washed out you can adjust the contrast to add some clarity to the explosions. Be careful not to add so much contrast the brightest parts of the explosions look completely overexposed.