How I did it | Fireworks at Stowe House

August 23, 2020

It’s always a relief when the fireworks photo turns out okay! And this one is more than okay, it’s one of my favourite pictures. Why such a relief? Read on to find out…

Fireworks at a wedding at Stowe School in Buckingham
What does this switch do?

My first step is always the same… speaking with the fireworks crew to find out where the fireworks will be going off. They usually have some good pointers, not just about the location, but also about the height at which the fireworks will go off. Which is super handy to work out the best vantage point for the photos.

For this shot at Stowe House, all the guests were viewing the fireworks from the back lawn. But with inside intel from the crew, I knew the fireworks would be high enough above the house to see them from the front lawn. And with the front of the house lit up at night, I knew that’d look stonking. So that was that decision made. Now just to capture them.

I have a fool Sarah-proof plan that works every time… Camera plus wide-angle lens on a tripod, everything in manual mode, lens focus distance set to infinity, lowest possible ISO, highest possible aperture … and a variety of shutter speeds to taste. A technical recipe. Which makes it nerve-wracking. At no other point in a wedding does it get as tech-heavy as this.

Plus, fireworks wait for no-one! With just a few minutes, it’s fast and furious!

And then there’s the challenge of changing camera settings in the dark. Because there’s always a need to adjust things as the results pop up on the back of the camera. Thank goodness for the iPhone torch!

Different types of fireworks, their varying speeds and the number of bursts at the same time all need different shutter speeds to make them look good. For example, earlier on in the show, when there are lots of single bursts, shorter shutter speeds are best. But as the show builds, and multiple bursts go off simultaneously, longer shutter speeds are needed to capture more explosions in one picture.

The trickiest part is listening for when the firework is set off, predicting how long it will be before it bursts in the sky and setting the right shutter speed to cover that time range.

There’s no two ways about it. They’re technically challenging to shoot. But oh my daysssss, what a way to end your day – and photo album.

Fireworks at Stowe House by Titanium Fireworks.

Leave a Comment