- First of all, forget the [AUTO] setting; the exposure conditions change too rapidly and drastically for cameras to calculate the best exposure. In this case we have to tell them what to do by using the manual mode; fortunately, even popular Point&Shoot cameras can be set to manual.
- The ISO setting will control how sensitive the sensor is. Remember that fireworks are really bright so there is no need to bump the ISO value to the roof, no matter if we are shooting at night. In the pictures shown here I used ISO 400.
- The Aperture value will control how open or close the lens will be during the shot, letting more or less light entering to the sensor. For fireworks this value can be set to a high f-number. In DSLR cameras, a value greater than f/11 is good as it will help to make sure everything is sharp. Point&Shoot cameras may get up to f/8, which is still OK considering their sensor size.
- The Shutter speed will control how long the shutter will stay open; the longer it stays open, the more light will enter to the sensor. For our fireworks we want to use a relatively long duration, something around 5 seconds; with this value we should be able to see the fireworks from the moment they are launched until the moment they explode, everything in the same frame.
- Put the camera in a steady surface; if you have a tripod, even better. With a camera open for 5 seconds you don't want any movement affecting your exposure.
- Following the same idea, a cable release is a great tool to avoid any kind of motion. Even the slight movement from our finger pressing the shutter may get capture as blur in the final image.
Of course, these are just some recommendations; it's up to you to start playing with some values and see their effect in the picture. Sometimes trial and error may give you wonderful surprises.
I hope all my Canadian friends have had a great Canada Day and for my American friends, have a nice Fourth of July.