New Years Eve is only a few days away, and if you’re like us, you’re just itching to get out there and snap the fireworks display your capital city has planned for you.

Early birds catch the best worms

If you want the best pictures, you’re going to want to get to your location as early as possible. It’s OK if you don’t, of course, but you’d better be prepared to hold the camera high above everyone else’s heads to capture the real money shots.

Also, make sure to keep a wrist-strap or neck-strap attached to the camera and your body at all times. You don’t want to drop and damage your camera – or lose it completely –  while negotiating the crowds at New Years’ festivities.

Keep your ISO low, make your exposures last longer

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The general wisdom is to use a high ISO setting (1600 and above) when it’s dark, but you’ll want to throw all of that advice out the window when you’re shooting with fireworks.

Why? Because fireworks are large bursts of bright light that provide colour to the rest of the sky. This means that you don’t need the high sensitivity normally required for night shooting, and can shoot at ISO 50, 100, and 200.

And because we’re shooting a lot of activity, we want as much of that in our picture as possible. This means leaving your shutter open for a longer period of time, say between 4 and 10 seconds. Which brings us to our next tip: the tripod.

Bring a tripod or be as still as you can

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Ever wondered why your night shots appear so blurry? Chances are you’re not using a tripod.

If you’re serious about capturing good fireworks photos, make sure you’ve got some sort of stable mount for your camera, and that means a tripod.

If you don’t have a tripod, try to lean against an object in the street, something like a lamp-post or a telegraph pole. This isn’t ideal, but will give you something to help keep the camera steady while the shutter is open.

If you’re using a lens, set it to manual and focus on infinity

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Most lenses with a manual mode (like those found on digital SLR cameras) feature a focusing guide measured in numbers. Often seen as a window on the lens, these measurements can assist in photographing subjects that don‘t provide much of a focal point – subjects such as fireworks.

Because fireworks occur so high in the sky, you’ll want to set the lens to the infinity symbol (it looks like an 8 on its side). This setting provides the best chance of delivering a sharp image of any subject positioned in the far distance, which makes it ideal for fireworks

Choose the camera’s fireworks setting

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If you’re shooting on a compact camera manufactured in the past couple of years, chances are that it has a “Scene” function (found under “SCN” on many cameras). This setting often has an option for fireworks, whereby the camera automatically sets the ideal aperture and shutter speed so that all you have to do is point and shoot.