Fireworks anyone?


For the benefit of our non-US readers, here in the states, over these next two days, we will celebrate Independence Day with, amongst other things, a great number of fireworks displays.  If you’ve ever tried to photograph fireworks, you know it can be a little tricky but not impossible.

Here are some basic tips:

  • Shoot in manual mode so you can set the shutter speed and aperture, and start with a low ISO.
  • Use an aperture of f/8 to f/11, generally the sweet spot of most lenses.Fireworks
  • You’ll need to shoot exposures of from 5 to 30 seconds, depending on how much fireworks activity you want to capture in one image.  That is, if you want to capture the launch trails, the burst, and the next launch and so on, you’ll need a longer exposure.  But be careful – too much activity can make for an undistinguishable mess of lights and colors.
  • Because of the long exposures, a steady tripod is a must.  And turn off your lens’ image stabilization anytime the camera is on a tripod.
  • Manually focus – autofocus systems can have a hard time hunting for focus lock amidst all the light and movement of the fireworks.  Once you’re focused, don’t change it.

  • A wide to moderate tele zoom will work best so you can back out and capture the entire scene as well as zoom in for a tighter shot without fumbling in the dark with your lenses.
  • Use a remote trigger for your camera or use the 2 second timer, so as to minimize any shake.
  • Most of all, experiment – different shutter speeds and focal lengths will yield very different results.  Check the histogram upon playback and increase or decrease your aperture as needed if too dark or too bright.
  • And if you have a point and shoot or compact camera, look for the fireworks mode and try that.  Be sure to steady the camera on something solid if you didn’t bring a tripod too.


If you have any tips to share about photographing fireworks displays, please feel free to share them in the comments, and do send us your best shots once the festivities are over.

Happy Independence Day to all.


About Ed Spadoni "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
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2 Responses to Fireworks anyone?

  1. Steven Tryon says:

    Thanks. I’ll have to pull out the Yashica-D and shoot up a roll. At worst it will be a throw-away. 🙂

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