1. Choose The Best Display:
If you can, go for fireworks that play out over grand architecture or water for colorful reflections. If possible, get permission to shoot from a tall building for a unique perspective.
2. Scout The Location:
After learning the rockets' firing positions, visit the site before the event and choose several shooting locations. On the day of the celebration, set up at one that's crosswind or upwind of the display. Otherwise, by the time the finale comes, you'll be shooting through smoke.
3. Get More Than The Burst:
Look for interesting buildings, trees, or people to place in the lower third of your frame. For this photo, I positioned myself in a downtown office building and shot verticals, which help convey the skyward energy of the fireworks.
Courtesy Of Edward J. Krish
4. Shoot Manual:
That's manual exposure (the Bulb setting) and manual focus (set to infinity). Kill the flash -- you won't need it.
5. Saturate Color:
If shooting film, use a super-saturated slide film such as Fujifilm's Velvia or Kodak's E100VS. If digital, use the High Color Saturation setting, usually found in the camera's setup menu.
6. Don't Go Too Wide:
Wider focal lengths can capture entire bursts, but then the bursts often appear too small in the picture. Instead, compose to include some foreground material, and don't worry if you end up cropping out some of the airborne action. As this shot proves, cropping into a burst still leaves a lot of visual impact.
7. Put More Than One Burst On A Frame:
For this shot, I set my Nikon F5 on a Slik Pro 700 DX tripod. Just before the first rocket, I placed a black card in front of my 80-200mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens (set to f/5.6) and held the shutter open on Bulb using a cable release. When that initial salvo hit its peak, I pulled the card away from the lens for a few seconds, being careful not to bump the camera. As the burst subsided, I covered the lens again and, keeping the shutter open, waited for the next burst, repeating the process 3 to 6 times for a total exposure of between 15 and 20 seconds. The technique gave me multiple bursts per frame.
8. Go Ahead, Experiment:
Tap or jiggle the camera during exposure. Also, after you've captured the fireworks, turn your camera to spectators (especially kids) for awestruck facial expressions that can be just as colorful as the action on high.