Focus on Disney World – Illuminations

Fireworks from Japan
Copyright © 2003 Barrie Brewer, Nikon E3100

One of the things Disney does best is put on a spectacular fireworks show. This photo, although not one of my best, has always been one of my favorites. It’s a photo of the Illuminations fireworks show at Epcot, taken from the upstairs deck outside of Teppanyaki restaurant. I took this with a point and shoot camera on the automatic/normal setting. I used the deck railing to steady the shot. At the time, I had no idea how to take good photos of fireworks. Basically I just clicked away, hoping something might come out. This was my one lucky shot out of about twenty.

One of the questions asked most often on photography forums is “How can I take great fireworks shots?” This summer I learned that it’s actually not that hard if you follow a few simple guidelines.

1. Pick a good location to shoot from. Choose a spot that is upwind from where the fireworks will be set off so that the smoke blows away from you and out of your photograph. Remember that the fireworks will explode high in the sky, so be sure to look up when choosing your spot. Make sure that your view will not be blocked by trees, buildings or giant torches – although thoughtfully incorporating some things (like the torii gate above or a child on dad’s shoulders) will create a nice composition.

2. Use a tripod. It’s the only way to be sure you will get a sharp picture. Even better, combine the tripod with a remote shutter release.

3. Turn your flash off. The only thing it’s going to light is the back of the head of the person in front of you – not exactly the effect you’re going for!

4. Use the right settings. If you have a point and shoot with a fireworks setting on your camera, use that. If not, set your camera to landscape. If you can manually set your camera, the following settings are a good place to start: ISO 100, 2-3 second shutter, aperture f8-f16.

5. Take lots of photos. After the first few, take a look to make sure you’re getting what you want. Now enjoy the show!

I used these guidelines to take photos of the fireworks on the 4th of July this year. I was so pleased with the results. Finally, I have fireworks shots that I’m proud of. I can’t wait for my next trip to Disney World to photograph Wishes and Illuminations.

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