How to Photograph Fireworks
It’s that time of year when bright bursts of explosions will fill the air. That’s right - fireworks! These gorgeous, loud explosions are here one moment and gone the next. Before you head off to your 4th of July festivities, first things first, check if your camera has a pre-programmed fireworks scene mode. If your camera has a fireworks mode it’s going to take care of most settings and you can skip to tip #4. If you don’t have a pre-programmed fireworks mode, no problem, just follow the tips below and you’ll be on your way to better fireworks pictures.
Tip #1 - Experiment with exposure. Your shutter speed will determine how much of a burst burn time you capture. If you set the shutter speed relatively short you’ll just capture a burst of dots. Most people expect to see a burst of streaming light in their photographs, so use a slower shutter speed, try a speed from 1 to 8 seconds. Adjust accordingly.
An effective old school alternative is to set the camera to B (Bulb) and use a piece of black construction paper held over the lens as your shutter. While it requires you to eyeball the timing, with this method you can stack multiple bursts on the same frame if you want.
Tip #2 - Set your ISO low and turn off noise reduction: For cleaner images with better color and contrast, keep that ISO low and slow. Many cameras have a menu option for ‘Long Exposure Noise Reduction’; Noise Reduction (NR) is useful sometimes, but not so much during fireworks shows because it requires a second reference image be taken right after each shot. NR really slows you down and the show won’t wait, so turn it off.
Tip #3 - Switch to manual focus and pre-focus at infinity: Pick out a very distant object and focus on it, then recompose and frame as you like.
Tip #4 - Use a tripod! This is a must. Camera shake is the enemy of sharpness. Image stabilization is neat, but it simply can’t replicate the stability and crispness a tripod provides during long exposures. Check out our ever changing unique selection of tripods.
Tip #5 - Use a remote release, too. Triggering the camera without shaking the tripod helps prevent blur. Feel free to browse our assortment of remote releases, if you have compatibility questions call one of our photography experts at 1-800-342-5534.
Tip #6 - Set up early: Fireworks draw crowds, a little bit of location scouting can help you snag the best spots. You can craft your shots better if you know where a show is being launched from.
Tip #7 - Be prepared: Long exposures drain batteries faster, so pack a spare. Make sure you have and use a lens hood to block stray glare. You never quite know just what framing opportunities will prevent themselves so pack a variety of focal lengths from wide-angle to telephoto.
Tip #8 - Don’t forget the foreground! You can add another dimension to the story by silhouetting subjects against the lights. While lighting pros may want to use fill flash to light the foreground, unless that’s your plan, make sure your flash is off.
Tip #9 - Water and reflective surfaces multiply the fun. It’s like you’re seeing double the fireworks, right? If the fireworks are being displayed near a reflective surface, whether that be water, or even windows, remember to stand further away at an angle. This gives you plenty of space to shoot.
Tip #10 - Sparklers and DIY fireworks are fun but fire is dangerous. Please enjoy your celebrations of freedom responsibly, each year thousands of preventable injuries occur due to unsafe fireworks use.