Whistle – kaboom – sparkle; o-o-h and a-h-h – repeat. Photographing Fireworks

July 03, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

The 4th of July is celebrated throughout the United States with parades, picnics and fireworks!!  Have you ever wanted to photograph fireworks, but just were not sure how to go about it?  It really is very easy – you only need a few items and you are set.


Because you will be using a very long shutter speed when photographing fireworks you will need a way to steady the camera.

Start with a tripod.   There are all kinds of tripods, made for all kinds of cameras.  I use a Manfrotto tripod.  Another tripod – that is also extremely cute – is a GorillaPod.  Make sure your camera is level on the tripod.

A remote release is also a very good accessory to have.  The remote release will ensure that your camera is completely still.  And if your camera has a bulb setting it will allow you to control how long the shutter stays open.

Try and scope out your location early on.  You will want to shoot up wind – the line up will be:  camera, fireworks, smoke, otherwise they will all come out really hazy.  If there are locations that will allow reflections – ponds, lakes, etc. – try and get to that location.  It adds a nice touch to the photos.

Be ready to take pictures of the first fireworks.  If there is not much wind you are going to end up with a lot of smoke in your shot.  The first explosions are usually the sharpest ones.

You can also photograph the people watching the firework show.  If you are photographing people expose for the face.


Try both vertical and horizontal shots.

Take a photo with the lens open to capture the entire scene and then zoom in to capture just the sparks and colors from the fireworks. 

Pre-focus if possible and then change your setting to manual focus.  The camera will not try and refocus for you once you switch.  Keep in mind that if you change your focal length you may need to refocus.

White balance – I like auto white balance, but tungsten will give you a bluer sky and cloudy or shade will give you more orange/warmer.

Set your resolution to the highest setting your camera will allow.

Good starting places for your camera settings.

ISO 100

Aperture f/11

Shutter speed – ½ a second up to 4 seconds or try longer.  Use bulb mode and play with the shutter speed by using a remote release.  If your images are too dark vary the shutter speed and find something that looks good to you.

Be sure to turn your flash off.

Shoot in manual mode

For a point and shoot camera

ISO at 100

If your camera has a fireworks scene setting – choose that.  You could also try night scene.  If possible set your camera to infinity or use landscape mode. 

Experiment with your camera in the daylight before you go to the show.  Things will go much smoother if you know where your camera settings are before you are in the dark.

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Take a comfortable chair and a penlight or small flashlight – in case you need to change a battery, memory card or camera setting.

Most important is to have fun. 


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