How to Photograph Fireworks Like A Pro

One of the best things about photography is learning new skills that creates stunning pieces of art.

Firework photography produces amazing photographs that capture the viewer and the photographer alike.

It can seem a little tricky but with the right tools and tricks, you’ll capture the colors and shapes in the sky that happen on some of our favorite holidays & celebrations. 

ISO 100    Aperture ƒ/11    Shutter Speed 3.5s

Equipment and Tools

There are a few different types of equipment that you need in order to successfully photograph fireworks.

Camera

The first is a camera that allows you to adjust its settings. When shooting photos of fireworks, you need to be able to change the f-stop, ISO, and shutter speed. All DSLR cameras allow you to do this, as well as some point and shoots from Canon, Sony, and Nikon. Only have your iPhone with you? Here’s how to take photos of fireworks on your iPhone.

Tripod

Tripods are a must to capture fireworks. They keep your camera steady and reduce the camera shake that comes from holding your camera by hand when shooting. If your tripod isn’t as stable as you would like it to be, you can weigh it down by adding something heavy to the middle of it. A sandbag will usually do the trick.

While I don’t really recommend it, you can get around the need of a tripod by bracing yourself up against something stable or finding a pillar to set your camera on. You will also need to adjust your shutter speed if you are shooting fireworks handheld  (It’s very difficult to shoot handheld at shutter speeds below 1/60 without introducing camera shake. )

Shutter Control App or Cable

A remote shutter is a must for shooting firework photographs. Using a remote reduces the amount of camera shake that comes from manually hitting the shutter button. When you have a camera that has Wi-Fi enabled, you can also use a remote shutter apps.  (Nikon has the Nikon App WMU, Canon has the EOS Remote, and Sony has different remote apps depending on which model.)

Lenses

When it comes to lenses, you have a few different options. If you are wanting a shot that includes a lot of space filled with fireworks, reach for a wide angle lens. Anything under a 24mm will do the trick. If a close-up photo of a firework is more your style, choose a telephoto lens. 


Camera Settings for Photographing Fireworks

One of the most important things you need to get right when shooting fireworks are the settings of your camera. It is important to shoot in manual mode if you want to correctly capture the fireworks. When setting up your aperture, you want to keep it on the small side. Start with f8 or f16. This will help keep your photograph sharp and in focus.

When it comes to shutter speed, you want your shutter to be longer because your aperture is narrow and you need time to allow more light into the camera. A longer shutter speed also allows you to capture more bursts of fireworks.

Now that you have your aperture and shutter speed figured out, you also need to adjust your ISO. The higher the ISO, the more  noise you will have in your photograph, so try to keep your ISO as low as possible. Start with ISO 100 and bump it up if you only if necessary.

ISO 100    Aperture ƒ/11    Shutter Speed 2.5s

How to Adjust Your Settings on Each Camera Model

Camera BrandISOF-StopShutter Speed
CanonHold down the ISO button on the camera and rotate the main dial at the same time.Hold down the AV button on the camera and rotate the main dial at the same time. Rotate the main dial.
NikonHold down the ISO button on the camera and rotate the command dial at the same time.Hold down the aperture button on the camera and rotate the command dial at the same time. Rotate the command dial.
SonyPress the control wheel and select ISO. Turn the dial until you select the correct ISO. Press the control wheel and select aperture. Turn the dial until you select the correct ISO.Press the control wheel and select shutter speed. Turn the dial until you select the correct ISO.

Framing

After choosing the appropriate settings for your camera, you need to think about how you want to frame your photograph. You want to pay attention to what is both in the foreground and the background of your shots. Is there something in the frame that is going to distract from the fireworks? Or is there something in the frame that is going to add to the picture?

One of the most important things you need to do while framing your photographs is to watch your horizons. This means that you need to make sure that your camera is shooting straight and that the horizons won’t be off and tilted. If there are other things in your photographs besides the fireworks, people will be able to tell that your camera was tilted because the objects will also be tilted. 

Quick Tips!

  • Get to your location early to scout out good locations clear of objects that will obstruct your view
  • Try to get your best shots early in the show. Often times the smoke from the fireworks will fill the air and the photos will not look as crisp in the sky.
  • Make sure you’ve charged your battery! Shooting at longer shutter speeds uses up more power in your camera. You don’t want to miss the shot due to no battery!

ISO 100    Aperture ƒ/22    Shutter Speed 4s
Smoke haze example (above)      ISO 100    Aperture ƒ/11    Shutter Speed 2.5s

Focus

Have you ever wondered how to focus when photographing fireworks? Similar to taking a photo of the moon or something off in the distance, auto-focus isn’t going to work for you. 

When you have the choice, manual focus is the way to go. You have a higher chance of your photo being in focus in manual mode than if using autofocus. In order to focus with manual, point your camera far off into the distance like at a tree or at the moon and focus on that.

What I typically do to make sure that my focus is 100% accurate, is focus with the auto-focus button on a bright explosion right at the beginning of the show. Then I’ll swap it over to manual focus immediately after I’ve found the accurate focus point.

Creative tip:

  • Focus on an object in the foreground. You can leave all of your other settings the same and snap a few photos throughout the show. This is especially good when the smoke has made the sky too polluted to shoot the fireworks.
ISO 800    Aperture ƒ/2    Shutter Speed 1/60s

Have Fun & Experiment

The most important part of the whole shooting fireworks experience is to have fun and experiment. You may have to adjust your settings and your focus as you go to get exactly what you are looking for, but that is part of the magic.   

I hope you enjoyed these tips on photographing fireworks. Go out there and have fun & be safe! 🙂 

Join me for my free training called “Show Your Camera Who’s Boss” and I’ll show you how to use the the shutter priority dial on your camera to get amazing photos every time.

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