Fourth of July Fireworks Photography

What better way to celebrate our nation’s independence than by watching a local fireworks show at dusk? Of course, I brought along my camera and tripod to record the display.

Shooting fireworks is not difficult if you have the right equipment but does require extra attentiveness to detail in setting up your camera. Check out the images, and then scroll down to read a few tips I learned by gleaning from other photographers around the web and also experimenting myself:

Tips for Photographing Fireworks

  • Use a tripod! Stabilizing your camera for any kind of nighttime shot is essential, especially when shooting extended exposures like you’ll need to record fireworks in a visually pleasing manner.
  • Turn off auto noise reduction within your camera. This will speed up time between shots so you don’t miss the next incredible burst of fireworks. See your camera’s manual or search online to see how to do this for your specific model.
  • Remove lens filters, which will cause unwanted light blurs in images.
  • Shoot at a low ISO (200 or less) to avoid noise in photos, and avoid automated nighttime settings that may default to a higher ISO. A low ISO will also help you be able to use long exposures with the brightness of fireworks.
  • Experiment with various shutter speeds – use at least a second to be able to capture the streaks of light as fireworks explode, but test longer exposures of 10 seconds or more to get multiple bursts in your image.
  • If available on your camera, set it to bulb mode, which allows you to hold down the shutter as long as you like and release it when you want. That way you can time your shots with precision and let up as soon as another firework is launched in a position that may obscure a great burst shot you just captured.
  • Use an aperture of f/8 or narrower to keep light to allow for longer exposures without light washing out shots.
  • Turn off autofocus (useless in the dark) and focus at infinity. After a few shots, check and adjust focus if necessary, especially if you’re trying to zoom in closer.
  • Take lots of pictures! As timing is unpredictable, you’ll probably end up with washed-out highlights and little streaks of light in several shots before you get a nice looking shot.