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 (here is my favorite one!). 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

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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.

42 Comments

  1. De Edra D Boon

    Very helpful. I have shot fireworks photos every year at Possum Kingdom Lake, TX. They look pretty good, but I know I can improve them. Your tips have help, Thanks

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      You’re so welcome De Edra D Boon! I’m so glad this was helpful to you! 🙂

      Reply
      • Sindy Escobar

        Thank you for always sending your awesome tips !! You are the best

        Reply
        • David Molnar

          Thank you so much Sindy! That means a lot! 🙂

          Reply
    • Renae Hux

      David Molnar, you and your team are the bomb diggity… Huge thanks to Crystal Livesay for answering my post on The Photo Mentorship page and linking me here… I can’t wait to get some shots in and see how it goes… Thanks for all y’all do!

      Reply
      • David Molnar

        Hey Renae! Thank you so much for your kind words, we truly appreciate it! Isn’t Crystal just the best?! 🙂 I hope you got some great shots!

        Reply
    • Kristina N. Momchilova

      Thank you for great lessons! Can’t wait to see the results. 😊

      Reply
  2. Karle Barclay

    Thanks for the tips. This will be my first time shooting fireworks so I’m thankful for the head start.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      You’re so welcome Karle! I hope you had a blast 😉

      Reply
  3. Kathy Camasso

    Thank you!!!! I am looking forward to trying out these tips this week for the 4th of July celebrations!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      You’re so welcome Kathy! I hope you had a great time and got some great shots!

      Reply
  4. Elaine Emery

    You have the BEST tips! Keep them coming!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Thanks so much Elaine! Will do! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Flor

    Thank you so much for these tips! I tried a couple of days ago and was somewhat disappointed but you’ve given me some hope! Here’s to capturing some amazing shots this 4th of July. Your awesome David!!!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      You’re so welcome Flor! I hope it helped!

      Reply
  6. Rita

    Thank you for the info! Very helpful.
    We will not be able to have fireworks here in Alaska due to dry conditions and forest fires.. they have been banned currently so will save the i formation and use it New Years Eve!!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Oh no Rita! I’m so sorry to hear that. You will be well prepared or New Years! 😉

      Reply
  7. sharon austin

    This was really helpful! Comprehensive yet succinct.
    Very generous of you.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Thank YOU Sharon! So glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  8. Mick

    Thank you, David, for yet another brilliant article.

    I found your article concise and straight to the point. Plus, it’s not only relevant to those who celebrate Independence Day.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Thank you so much Mick! I’m thrilled to hear you liked it!

      Reply
  9. Phyllis

    All your comments will be very helpful.Will apply your comments on
    the Fourth. I have taken fireworks 🎇 pictures in the past. I have used some of the techniques before,great reminder,excited.Thank you,and David you and your family have a great 4th of July.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Phyllis! I hope you had a wonderful 4th!

      Reply
  10. Buffie

    Thank you! Will try all of these tonight!

    Reply
  11. Teressa Schumacher

    David, You always make the instructions easy to understand. I also am ready to get my camera and shot some fun!!!!!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Thank you so much Teressa, that’s very kind! I hope you got some great shots!

      Reply
  12. Jody Sylvain

    Thank you for this quick lesson. I cant wait to try it tomorrow.

    Reply
  13. Delma Najera

    Thank your for the lesson it was very simple and quick and to the point

    Reply
  14. Courtney Ann

    After reading this, I feel like going to set up for the fireworks today!! Thanks for these tips, my photos should be awesome this year!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      I hope you had a great time and got some great shots Courtney!

      Reply
  15. Candice Stout

    This article is so helpful! I have learned so much from your free trainings and just starting to do your on-line courses. You style of teaching works for me, so easy to follow along. What a blessing you are!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      I’m so thrilled to hear that Candice! Thank you for your kind words! 🙂

      Reply
  16. Sherry Tobiason

    I can’t believe I saw this just in time for the fireworks tonight!! Thank you. Do you have a tutorial for shooting Northern Lights? I’m going to Iceland this fall and I AM going to see them…at least I’d better.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Sherry! Unfortunately I don’t currently have a tutorial for that but I will add it to my list. 🙂

      Reply
  17. Patti

    Thank you for your great tips…What I really need is to have you standing by my side coaching me because this is all so new to me and there is much to remember. lol I have taken notes and am ready to head out tonight to try this…all we need is for the weather to cooperate. Your sample photographs are breathtaking!!!! Happy 4th!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      I’m sure you did a great job Patti! 🙂

      Reply
  18. Kathy Louis-Sanders

    The information is informative and useful. I remain hopeful that I become a better photographer as a result. I’m concerned, however, because I seem to receive great information and announcements after the fact.

    Can anyone help me? I turned on notification, just in case the issue is on my side.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Kathy! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I do send out emails with the blog posts so as long as you’re subscribed to my emails you should get them. Be sure to keep your eye on your spam or promotional folders though because they will often wind up there! 🙂

      Reply

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