Photographing Fireworks

Happy Fourth of July!  This time of year brings picnics, celebrations, the American flag and fireworks.  I know that in Atlanta alone, you can watch at least eight different fireworks displays within an hour drive. 

For those of you interested in photographing the fireworks, here are a few tips that might help you capture the beautiful display in the sky you were hoping for.  Please remember that every situation and light condition is different.  These are just basic guidelines and it is important for you as the photographer to make changes as your conditions vary.


Recommended Equipment

  • dslr camera
  • 18-200 mm lens (any lens within this range will work nicely)
  • tripod (very important because the slightest movement or vibration will cause blur)
  • cable release/remote (to help eliminate any movement of camera)



The first thing I would suggest is to find a good location.  Scope out the location prior to the event and find out exactly where the fireworks will be set up and the direction in the sky they will be displayed.  Make sure you will have an unobstructed view and people will not be in your way.  Here are some location ideas and things to keep in mind:

  • On the ground in the center of the action with the firework display directly overhead
  • Elevated on a hillside overlooking the action (people, lake, city, etc.)
  • Try to stay away from artificial light sources if possible
  • Some of the more unique photos I’ve seen include some additional element in the photo such as a landscape feature, silhouette of people, buildings, or water
  • Another thing to keep in mind is the orientation of your photos – will you shoot vertical or horizontal?


Camera Settings

Aperture: Anywhere between f/8 and f/16 will work.  You can experiment and find what is right for your setting.

Shutter Speed: Experiment with this setting to get the effect you want.  I would suggest using the bulb mode.  With the bulb setting, the shutter opens the first time your press the shutter button and closes when you press it a second time.  This way you can leave the shutter open long enough to get the entire burst of fireworks.  If you decide not to use the bulb mode, I would suggest a shutter speed of anywhere between 1-4 seconds depending on your light conditions and other camera settings.

ISO: Anywhere between 100-400, the lower the better.  The higher the ISO, the more probability you will have noise in your photo depending on your camera and its ability.

White Balance: Set to auto.

Flash: Make sure your flash is turned off. 


Additional Tips

Your camera’s auto focus will have a very hard time getting a focus point in low light.  I would suggest using manual focus.  You can set the camera to auto focus to initially get it focused on something in the far distance (close to infinity) and then switch it back to manual focus.

In the very beginning, take a couple of shots and then check your lcd to make sure everything looks good.  Check periodically throughout the shoot but it is not necessary to check after every photo.  You may miss a lot of the action doing this!

Enjoy and have fun!!!



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