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Back in September we came across these spectacular shots of Hanabi, Japan’s summer-long fireworks festival.

Suitably impressed, we got in touch with photographer Keisuke Nakazawa to see how his expertise could help smartphone photographers up their own firework photography game. Keisuke grabbed the Xperia XZ1 (packed with all the latest Sony camera innovations) and headed to the Tokyo Bay Fireworks Display to put it through its paces. Check out some of the images he captured below.

So, just in time for New Year’s Eve, consider this your definitive guide on how to take better photos of fireworks, by someone who really knows their stuff.

Keisuke, over to you.


Pick your spot

Preparation is key. Ideally you want to be upwind of the display. This will minimise the amount of smoke in your shot as it will blow away from you. Also, feel free to put some distance between yourself and the display. I find shooting from a distance of 400 to 500 meters leads to the best results.

Do your research

This isn’t always possible but if you know what kind of fireworks will be shot off when, you’ll be ready to capture the perfect shot. It’s easy to miss a shot when a beautiful volley of fireworks appears. Having a schedule will help you capture the most impressive moments.

Use a tripod

Absolutely essential. When photographing fireworks, you want to take pictures with slow shutter speeds to create cool and beautiful shots. Slow shutter speeds + no tripod = shaky shots. Not good. If you don’t have a tripod, get creative and find another way to fix your smartphone in place. It’s that important.

Manual mode is your friend

Ok, now let’s take some pictures. Manual mode is also crucial. Why? Because it lets us lengthen the shutter speed to one second. As for ISO, when this is high, pictures can become noisy. Also, because fireworks are bright a high ISO will cause your shots to turn white. As such I set the ISO low, around 50 to 100. As for white balance, keep this on auto or set for fluorescent light.

If you struggle with manual settings, it is possible to take great shots in auto mode. The Xperia Superior Auto mode is amazing but be sure to use a tripod to ensure best results.

Finally, manual focus is also key. Even the very best autofocus can struggle at night.

Look at the fireworks, not the screen

Practice watching the firework with your eyes and pressing the shutter without looking at the screen. Also, be gentle! Pressing the shutter too strongly will cause the smartphone to shake. You want to press the shutter when the firework is at its highest point after launch. That’s when they explode and fill the sky with colour.

Follow Keisuke on Instagram and please share your Xperia fireworks shots on Twitter with the hashtag #XperiaFireworks. We’ll RT the best.