How To Photograph Fireworks

During celebration periods, such as Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s, there are many firework shows in many places. Therefore, there are a lot of opportunities to photograph fireworks.

What do you need for taking fireworks photos?

firework photo tips and tricks

Photo by Robert Hensley; ISO 200, f/11.0, 10.3-second exposure.

Camera: One that has “Bulb” shutter speed is preferable.

Wide and normal zoom lens: 10-22 mm, 16-35 mm, 18-55 mm, 24-70mm, etc. Zoom lenses have more flexibility to frame your photos. However, there are no solid rules which focal length should be used because it depends on how far of you and fireworks, how big of the fireworks are, etc.

Tripod: You really need this for long shutter speeds while taking firework photos. You must keep your camera still, otherwise your photos will be blurred.

Remote switch: It helps you to keep your camera completely still while photographing firework shots. When you use Bulb (B) shutter, you should not press directly on the camera shutter button. It causes the camera to be unstable, and you cannot get sharp and clear photos.

These are some optional items that you may want to consider:

Black cap: It’s used for protecting lighting when you want to photograph many fireworks in one shot.

Food and drink: You may wait for awhile before fireworks commence.

Flashlight: It helps you to find anything in the dark.

Small chair: In case you have a long wait.

Umbrella: In case of rain.

When and where should you go to take firework photos?

The best place to photograph fireworks is any tall building around the fireworks area about 0.5-1.5 km from where the fireworks will be displayed. You must be able to pan your camera without any obstructions in your viewfinder. It should be in an upwind direction, too. You must go to your location as early as possible, because there will be a lot of photographers and speculators. Remember that the location is everything for taking fireworks photos. The better the location, the better the photos.

How do you photograph fireworks?

how to take pictures of fireworks

Photo by Steren Giannini; ISO 3200, f/22.0, 2-second exposure.

Before taking fireworks photos, prepare as follows:

1. Be on location as early as possible and select the best location. The best location is the location where you can see the fireworks without any obstructions and there is interesting foreground or background as buildings, bridges, river, lake, etc.

2. Set your camera on a tripod firmly.

3. Set the parameters in the camera as follows:

Mode: M, Manual

Auto focus: Off or Manual

ISO: 100

Shutter speed: Bulb, B

Aperture: vary from f/5.6 to f/11

Focal length: Infinity

File type: RAW is preferred, because you have more flexibility to process your photos later.

Memory Card: Big enough that you won’t lose your opportunity to take photos due to full memory.

White Balance: Auto

4. Set a good composition by including a nice foreground or background, such as building(s), pool(s), lake(s), bridge(s), river(s), etc. Use the rule of thirds to make an interesting composition. There are two ways to frame your fireworks photo: horizontal or vertical. Your choice depends on how the fireworks look. If your fireworks are one big and long shot, you may need to frame your photos vertically. In other words, if you want to capture wide angle of fireworks, you may need to flame your photos horizontally.

5. Set your remote switch with your camera and test its function.

how to take photos of fireworks

Photo by Marv Gillibrand; ISO 450, f/1.8, 1/90-second exposure.

Let’s photograph fireworks:

1. Once you hear an explosion, start to press and hold the remote switch button. Watch the fireworks showing their magic until the burst disappears, and then release the button. Normally, this takes about 5-9 seconds.

If this is your first shot, check it on your LCD to see how the composition and lighting look. You may need to adjust the camera, the focal length, and aperture in order to get the best composition and lighting.

2. If you would like to take many fireworks in one shot, please use the following tips:

2.1 When the first firework is shot, press and hold the remote switch button. When the first one fades out, put the black cap in front of your lens in order to prevent light coming to your photo while you are still pressing the remote switch button. You must not touch any part of your camera so that your photo will not blur due to camera shake.

2.2 When the second firework is shot, take the black cap out and wait until the second firework fades out. After that you put the cap in front of your lens again.

2.3 When you do not want to add any more fireworks in your photo, you just release the remote switch button. You can repeatedly use these techniques in order to take many fireworks in one shot. However, you should be prudent with this tip because if you try to take too many fireworks in one shot, your photo will be over exposed. Normally, I get only 2 to 3 fireworks in one shot.

3. Check your photos periodically. You may have time to check your photos because the fireworks are shot periodically. You may change the composition and/or delete some bad photos in order to reserve the memory space.

These guidelines should help you photograph fireworks. Go out and have fun with fireworks!

About the Author
Suwat Pongtepupathum is a digital photographer who is really fascinated in digital photography. He has a personal photo blog, digitalshuttermania on which he shares his photos, photography techniques, Photoshop CS for digital photography techniques.

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