Australia Day is traditionally a day– well a night really – of fireworks. And many, many people will be attempting to photograph their local spectacle. A smaller percentage I am guessing will try and video it.
So here’s some tips to at least have a good shot at getting something worthwhile.
Forget handheld. Use a tripod at best, or at worst sit the camera on something to keep it still and at the right angle. One of those bean bags you can buy to heat up in the microwave to ease sore muscles works a treat when placed on the ground and the camera sat in it and angled upward.
Try and use a cable or remote release so the camera gets no vibration when the shutter is triggered. Cameras such as a GoPro and DJI Action Cam can be triggered from a smartphone app.
PUT THE CAMERA (OR SMARTPHONE) IN MANUAL MODE. FORGET AUTO!
TURN OFF AUTOFOCUS. Manually focus. Before the display, choose a light source in the distance such as a street light to set your focus.
Shoot the highest quality you can. If your camera can shoot RAW, use it.
ISO is important. Too high and your images will be grainy and too low, and they won’t be bright enough. ISO 200 is a good starting point. Take a couple of test shots early in the fireworks display and see how they look on playback, adjusting up or down accordingly.
Set the aperture to start with it at F11 and again, in your early test shots, check to see if that needs to be more open (lower number to let more light in) or closed (higher number) to less light in.
Similar to aperture, experiment with shutter speed starting at 5 seconds. Depending on the display, the optimum shutter can be anywhere between 1 and 10 seconds in practice.
Most of the above tips also apply to video such as using a tripod, turning off autofocus and auto iris (aperture).
Set the iris (aperture) to F8 or F11.
Choose your location. You want to be able to have the actual firework burst on as dark a background as possible.
Shoot wide initially and then when you have some decent footage, try and zoom into a burst where you think it might occur based on previous observations.
A spectacular shot if you can get it is following a tracer upwards before it explodes and then keep shooting until everything is black.
A neat trick I saw while researching was shooting some explosions in the bottom left of the screen and some in the top right. This lets you do some interesting cross dissolves in post editing.
If you are shooting people in your framing, try and get an angle so their faces light up by reflection from the firework burst and shoot from a low angle.
Have fun and a happy and safe Australia Day!