I love taking photos of fireworks. It's not as hard as you might think just takes a bit of practice but the results are well worth the preparation and effort. The key is to have a tripod and a camera that you can set to "bulb" for the shutter speed. The trick is to open the shutter before the firework explodes and leave it open until after it's done. It takes a bit of practice but the results are well worth it.
Here are some pointers to help you get started. You'll need some basic gear: camera with manual settings (including focus), tripod and a remote shutter release. First set your camera to the lowest ISO setting allowed usually between ISO 50-200, set your f-stop to 11-16 and shutter speed to Bulb. Switch to manual focus mode and set your focus point to just shy of infinity. It's a good idea once you've set up and pointed the camera in the direction of the fireworks to view the first coupe of explosions through the viewfinder without taking a photo. This will help you with framing. Once you've got everything set you're ready to go.
Press the shutter release when the rocket is fired and leave it open until after the explosion is finished. This provides the greatest amount of color and detail. You can experiment by leaving the shutter open for several explosions to capture a sky full of fireworks. Caution: leaving the shutter open too long will result in washout of color and a bit of overexposure. Practice is essential. You should get good results the first time if you follow these guidelines.
Just a couple of notes. The reason to set your camera's ISO to between 50-200 is to preserve the black background and reduce noise associated with higher ISO settings. Setting it too high (1000 or higher) on many cameras produces noise similar to film grain. Also if your camera requires you to hold down the shutter button try to avoid holding the camera in your hand. Even with a tripod any hand movement will produce a blurry photo. I shot these images with a Nikon D80 with 24-120mm VR lens at ISO 200 mounted on a Slik tripod with a remote shutter release. The exposure time varied from a few seconds to nearly 10 seconds in Bulb depending on the result I was looking for. These were taken in Greenfield MA on July 2, 2010.
UPDATE: Here are a few more shots taken in July 2011.
I hope these tips help you taken breathtaking images of fireworks. Good luck shooting!
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