On New Years Eve you can pretty much guarantee that the night sky somewhere near you will be quite literally on fire. Capturing such a spectacle on camera is easy if you know how – here are some of our top tips!

What you will need
As you will essentially be taking night time long exposures, you will need more than a steady hand, and you’ll need some help to see, so make sure you pack:

  • Tripod

  • Shutter Release

  • Flashlight

You will also need to ditch the auto setting and go manual. Having said that, lots of cameras now have a firework shooting mode - but where is the fun in that?

Shutter Speed
If your camera has a bulb mode, use it. That way you will have more control over what you capture, which ideally is the WHOLE firework.

Most fireworks take a couple of seconds to complete - this is how long you should keep the shutter open for. Remember, the longer it is open, the less contrast there will be and the brighter the surrounding sky and setting.

Top TipCheck your results after a few shots to see if you need to adjust the exposure time, especially if you don’t have bulb mode.

A faster shutter speed will only capture a moment of the firework, whereas what we are after is movement of the firework.

Focal length
Unless you are taking a picture of someone with a sparkler, you can pretty much bet that the subject of your photo is at quite a distance, so a long focal length is necessary, which is great for focus and course it means the small aperture will let in less light. Great for long exposures, especially of fireworks because the brightness of the fireworks will expose just fine even with relatively short shutter speeds.

Close up subjects and light painting
The best way to ready yourself for taking pictures of people with sparklers or glow sticks is to get someone to stand where the action will happen with a flashlight. Set your camera to manual and adjust your focus and shutter speed for the conditions, then wait for the real action to begin.

RememberTurn your flash off!

Get in a good position, either above the crowds or in front of them. Not only do you want to make sure your view is unobstructed, you want to ensure that no one knocks your tripod during a long exposure! You can create extra drama by getting buildings and plants in the shot too as a backdrop or to create a silhouette.

Multiple Exposures
A neat trick to try is a multiple exposure. For this, you need to keep your shutter open for a long time – say 20 to 30 seconds, but take along a piece of thick black card to cover the lens between fireworks. It requires some experimentation, but can lead to some very cool shots!

Finally - take plenty of spares
Firework displays may not last long, but you will find that you will be shooting almost continuously to make sure you don’t miss a thing. As such pack a spare battery and definitely spare memory cards – especially if shooting in RAW.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Can’t wait to see your first pictures of 2013!

Photos courtesy of Ross, Tineke and Alexis

December 27th, 2012
Thanks for this. I'm not sure whether I shall see any fireworks but if not, it will come in handy another time. The help we get from 365 has really brought on my photography and I really appreciate it.
December 27th, 2012
great tips yet again, guys! learning a lot from you. thank you. and have a safe new year.
December 28th, 2012
Very good
December 31st, 2012
Nice tips.... Feliz Año para todos!!!!
January 3rd, 2013
I lost my chance to try this last year, but hoping to try it next one! Thank you very much for the nice tips! This is sure helpful!
September 16th, 2013
This is great, I had a go but will use the tips above for next time - here's my attempt at Lands End in August
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