Now that you’ve explored the basics of fireworks photography you are ready to fine-tune your images. Some extra preparation and a little creativity can take your fireworks images into a whole new range.
We’ve covered the basic idea of framing wide so that you won’t have to recompose your shot with every shell. But how do you make the most of that wide frame? Scout your location ahead of time. If you are shooting a fireworks show you have seen before, you will have a pretty good idea of where the shells will explode. Explore the possible vantage points for the show in the daylight. If you are not familiar with the show, call the local promoter or fireworks company and ask them what the target sky area will be for that show. When you are scouting vantage points there are several things you should keep in mind.
Is there a vantage point where you can include an iconic landmark in the frame?
Are there power lines in the way?
Will there be streetlights or other light sources around that could flare or ghost on your images?
Are there going to be a lot of other people around who might bump or knock over your camera and tripod?
If the weather is threatening, can you get your equipment out of rain quickly?
While you can easily set a film SLR to infinite focus and be relatively sure of your focus, digital cameras are often a bit more finicky in focus. With a digital camera you will need to either use your manual focus setting and focus on the first shell by hand or partially prefocus your camera and then allow the autofocus to fine-tune the focus with the first shell. If you allow the autofocus to fine-tune the focus you should immediately turn the focus mode back to manual so that your camera will not try to focus with each shell. If a building or other landmark will appear in the frame you can also focus on that structure.
Once you have the focus distance determined you should consider your depth of field. Aperture settings are not just for light control when it comes to fireworks. Fireworks are actually rather large items and require a fairly large depth of field. This larger depth of field is especially important if you are including a landmark or other structure in your image. F-Stops of 14 or higher are your best bet for crisp images.