Manual setting for fireworks

edited July 2016 Posted in » Nikon D3300 Forum
Hi there, l just brought new D3300 a few months ago and would like to learn how to use manual setting during fireworks at night. Are there any tips for which setting l could use for fireworks tonight? Thanks.


  • edited July 2016
    Fireworks are generally not that hard to do.

    First of all, you will need a tripod or other very steady support for the camera, because you will need long exposures.

    The usual setting that works pretty well is a medium aperture, somewhere in the f/8 to 11 range. Fireworks are pretty bright. If the fireworks are very bright you might need a smaller aperture, but don't overdo or you'll lose some clarity to diffraction above f/16.

    Keep the ISO low. You probably won't need to go above 100. Turn auto ISO off, so the camera is not fooled into thinking it needs to boost ISO.

    You should probably also turn off Auto D-lighting, since you don't generally want any opening up of shadows.

    Auto focus will be hopeless, so you need to manually focus more or less at infinity. Do not just crank the lens to the infinity stop, because most modern zooms go past infinity, and the blur is worse going past it than coming short of it. Find the and object on the horizon, near to the distance the fireworks will be, and use that. For a fairly wide angle view, anything past 100 feet will be just fine.

    You're probably best off using the "bulb" shutter setting, and just holding the shutter open until one or more bursts occur. You can vary how many fireworks bursts appear in a picture, but it usually works best if there are a couple. You'll have to experiment a bit, because some of this will depend on where in the frame they appear, and how bright and close they are.

    Check the histogram after a shot to see if you're over exposing, and limit the number of bursts accordingly (and of course also for composition, you may not want too many at once). Unless you have a ND filter, there's a limit to how much you can stop down without losing some clarity, but you'll probably have to stop way down for the grand finale.

    If you have a remote shutter release it will help a lot to avoid jiggling. If not, make sure you don't jiggle the camera too much holding the shutter. If fireworks are hot and heavy, you can also set your shutter speed to a long time like 30 seconds, and simply open it. Either leave it open for the full 30, or if enough bursts occur soon enough, quickly turn the camera off and then on again to cancel the shutter.

    Don't use live view for long, because it will burn up battery. Long exposures will already be using your battery a bit above normal.

    Make sure that long exposure noise reduction is turned off. This feature, while it can be nice in reducing noise, takes a second picture with the shutter closed, for every one you take. That means that if you have a 30 second exposure, it will take 60 seconds to process, and you'll be twiddling your thumbs between shots!

    If you don't have a tripod, you can still manage to get something if you can find a way to put your camera on the ground, perhaps on the camera bag, and aim it in a way that does not fill the frame with grass. But holding the shutter button will be hard, and you might get steadier results setting the shutter for long exposure so you can take your hands off.

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