New Year’s Eve is a unique opportunity to photograph one of the most beautiful moments of the year. Record something enchanted, from local traditions to joyful faces during celebrations to fireworks. This article covers the steps, techniques, and tips required to record and photograph fireworks in high-quality.
Step 1 – Determine Your End Goal
First, decide why you want to shoot fireworks. Knowing what you want to accomplish helps you organize for the shoot. Are you posting on social media, making a documentary, or planning to sell the footage for the stock? Each application has different visual requirements and will determine the type of equipment and preparation needed.
Step 2 – Plan the Production
- Timing is key– Plan your shoot carefully and give yourself enough time to set up the tripod, camera, etc.
- Do your research – Search Pond5 and then sort by popularity to see the top shots. You can also check Google, YouTube, and social media for viral posts to see why they went viral and see if something is inspiring to set the stage for your shoot.
- Scout a location – Look up different venues hosting a fireworks display in your area. Choose one that interests you and provides a clear view of the show. Since you’ll be sitting there for some time, it should be a place where you feel at ease. You can check Google Earth to see access points and get a sense of what the location looks like in advance. Also, you can look for other places nearby that may give you a better view or at least a unique perspective.
- Consider your vantage point – Check to see if a high-rise hotel is close to the fireworks, where you can book a room and shoot from the balcony. Survey your surroundings. Look for a hill or mountain a couple of miles away that may give a much larger scope to the fireworks. Lastly, get to your location early to set up!
- Overall Composition – Fireworks with the blank sky in the background are useful as a source for layered photos and footage. However, if you intend to use it differently, look for a location with foreground objects, such as buildings, hillsides, or trees, at the very least to add additional visual elements. Otherwise, the results may look a bit plain. Having people in the foreground is also an option, but you must count on blurred movement as the sensor captures light longer.
- Check the weather – You can not control the weather, and in the winter, it could spoil a celebration. However, it is feasible to set off fireworks in the rain, so if you are determined, don’t discount this issue, pack your belongings appropriately, and adequately protect yourself and the equipment!
Step 3 – Gear to Pack
- Tripod – Using a tripod is important but set the drag loose to give you the ability to pan and swivel.
- Several lenses – Don’t count on one or two lenses. Start wide, but using a telephoto or wide telephoto to capture the details is excellent too. Use different frame settings based on your goal.
- Flashlight/headlamp – Remember, you’re filming in low light. Bring a flashlight or, ideally, a headlamp.
- Stay comfortable – Take care of yourself and those around you during the shoot. Bring some chairs, snacks, and enough water, and keep yourself warm!
- Consider the weather – Pack rain protection for yourself and your camera if the forecast looks uncertain.
- Batteries/Battery Chargers – You don’t want your camera to die while taking your amazing shots!
- Cleaning Supplies– Make sure to pack some wipes or a microfiber cloth for easy cleaning in case your lens or camera gets dirty!
- Memory cards –
- Camera Remote – If your camera has a remote, pack it to reduce shaky hands while taking photos or videos!
Step 4 – The Best Camera Settings For Shooting Fireworks
You need to set up your camera for low-light filming. Most of the general rules apply here as well. If you’re photographing, don’t forget to shoot in Raw so you can better play with the image in post-production software later.
Step 5 – Shooting
Action! The big day is here. Since you have a limited time to capture your shots, we recommend using techniques you find comfortable. Try to find out the launch location of the fireworks.
- Panning left and right – Check your surroundings and ensure you have enough space for setting up and shooting. Add in more elbow room if necessary!
- Exposure experiments< – Remember, the longer your exposure, the longer the trails of lights that will be visible.
- Composition – There’s nothing wrong with shooting fireworks against the clear sky. High-quality shots have their place in the overall demand among video editors but if you don’t intend to sell your footage as a source for other use in editing (such as layering the fireworks in additional footage), then consider the foreground objects.
- Speed experimentation – Slow motion gives you beautiful moody shots, while real-time is more authentic. Play with the settings!
- PRO TIP: Shoot the entire show on a separate camera – Bring another camera with a wide lens and shoot timelapse or real-time footage of the whole fireworks show. The backup allows you the freedom to constantly change settings with your primary camera.
- Aerial footage – Drone footage is also an option. If the local laws allow, a drone gives another perspective of the show and a competitive advantage over other sellers.
- 360/VR footage – Don’t forget 360 cameras! If you find the right spot and you’re able to secure a clear image, it’s another competitive advantage.
Step 6 – Post-production
A lot of things can be enhanced or fixed in post-production. Here’s the list of elements you can play with:
- White balance – Experiment with the temperature and tint sliders to find your favorite colors. Fireworks don’t have a usual “correct” color, so you can change the white balance to whatever you want. You could also utilize the foreground objects you provided as a guide to figure out what is realistic regarding color.
- Basic controls – Exposure and contrast, luminance, saturation, darkening shadows, and blacks are all controls you can adjust. Keep in mind that the outcome should be natural and vivid, not overexposed or unnaturally saturated. Being gentle is key.
- Clarity, sharpening, and texture – Use these gently. It may help to make the fireworks pop out even more!
- Clipping – If you have continuous long footage, find the most exciting moments, clip them, and export and upload them separately.
Step 7 – The Metadata Work/Uploading to Pond5
Congratulations! You’ve just exported your stunning work! Now it’s time to sell it. To make sales, you have to think of the marketing part too!
- Refer back to your research on Pond5 – See what keywords other artists use with similar photos and footage when sorting the results by popularity.
- Concepts – Don’t forget to add keywords as we get closer to the other events, holidays, and anniversaries that typically feature fireworks displays, such as the 4th of July, etc. Please read our guide to keywords for more information.
- Metadata – Choose the proper descriptive titles and descriptions to help our algorithm push your content to the top of the results.
- Create a collection – Create a collection of your photos and footage and share the link to your social media networks. Here’s a guide on how to make a collection.
- Earn referral income – Get even more revenue with our Referral Program. You’ll earn a commission on every new buyer you introduce to Pond5, no matter what they buy!
- Maximize your earning potential – Join the Pond5 Exclusive Video Artist Program for an industry-leading 60% royalty share. Not only will you maximize the value of your work, but you’ll also save time by uploading to just one platform. And if you combine it with the referral program, you can get up to 90% revenue share!