I have been asked by a couple of people about the best way of photographing fireworks.
The first thing you need to do is get your night photography basics and equipment, right you can see some guidance on night photography lower down the blog.
Once you have the right set up consider how high the fireworks are going to go. The largest commercial fireworks go to about 400m high. The ones in the shot above which are still spectacular but can be brought by the public look to have gone to about 70-100m high. The people running the display may be able to give you an idea of the height they will go to. Ideally you want a bonfire or a crowd at the bottom of the frame and it’s better to get a bit too far away as you can always zoom in a bit. Once you are in the right place focus on something at the same distance as the firework base, then switch to manual focus, you don’t want to be trying to focus during the display.
When you are all set up you need to work out your exposure, and you will need to end up with a shutter speed of sufficient length that you can record the flight of the firework and the starburst in one shutter opening, on the above I used about 3 seconds. If you want to capture multiple burst just use a longer exposure. Before the display set your shutter speed to about 3 seconds, then adjust your aperture and ISO to give you the background look that you want, keep you ISO low to minimise image noise. And you won’t need a very small aperture as you will be focusing near infinity so you will have plenty of depth of field. The above was shot at f/5.6, 3seconds, ISO 100.
Then when the display starts keep shooting and try and get the timing right so that you are opening the shutter between shell launches. Also keep an eye on your exposures during the display because some of the fireworks can create a lot of light and may cause you to over expose. Be ready to select a smaller aperture if things start to look over exposed.