For me fireworks are one of the most difficult things to shoot. The difficulty in shooting fireworks is that they are available in short bursts of time and they are very bright. With some trial and error I have managed to figure out the optimal setting for shooting fireworks and here I am going to share those with you.
Know the location: It is always better to reach the location before time and prepare for the shoot. . If you reach the location before time, you can roam around and figure out the best place to shoot the firework. Try to find a good vantage point from where you can capture some landmark(s) along with fireworks. Most of the time the fireworks are conducted at historical monuments or buildings with some special value attached to them. Capture such landmark as it will become a proof that you were there at the time of the firework.
Use a tripod: Shooting fireworks require long exposures and you will need a tripod to keep the camera stable. Without tripod you will end up having blurry photographs.
Watch your frame: When you place the camera on tripod, make sure your camera is even or straight with horizon. Take few shots before the show starts to ensure that everything is sharp and you have a landmark inside the frame. It is always better to step back a little further, this way you can focus the lens at infinity and still have sharp pics.
Watch the wind: When dealing with fireworks, you have to be aware of wind direction. Fireworks produce smoke and if you are standing in the direction of the wind, your pics will end up being hazy. Another way to avoid hazy pics is to shoot first. The shots at the beginning of the show are the sharpest ones as there is not much smoke.
Use low ISO: Fireworks are very bright, so a low ISO of 50 to 200 is is what you need and ISO 100 is sufficient most of the time. If you use high ISO you will end up with noise in the picture.
Use a wide angle lens: I prefer 15-30mm lens so that you can capture as much as possible. Fireworks dont have a defined spread, so the more you can capture the better it is.
Slow down the shutter: Use lower shutter speeds of 1-4 seconds. Fireworks move, so a slower shutter speed will ensure that you can capture enough light as well as the movement.
Small aperture: Keep aperture in mid to small range, something like F/8 to F/16. A small exposure will ensure a thick depth of field and result in sharp images.
Shoot in manual mode: The auto mode can confuse camera because of constantly changing light during the fireworks and you may miss many shots.
White balance: Shooting fireworks with day white balance on a dark sky saturates the color of fireworks. One may also try tungsten white balance setting, especially when shooting against blue sky.
Shoot with timer/release: Using timer or remote release will ensure your camera doesnt shake in between the shots. A shake can result in blurry images.
Try the bulb mode: One advance technique of shooting fireworks is to keep camera in bulb mode and cover the camera with black foam or black cloth in between two firework explosions. This will allow you to capture multiple firework shots in one image instead of having few explosions here and there
So, happy shooting and shoot a card full of firework images.