7 tips on how to photograph fireworks

Fireworks from Skyfire 2015 in Canberra

Camera settings: 5.7sec f/7.1 ISO100

So you’ve seen amazing photos of fireworks and asked yourself, “How do I take photos of fireworks?”  Well here is some basic advice based on what I use.

My 7 tips on how to photograph fireworks

  1. Use a tripod and remote shutter release
  2. Use Bulb mode with a remote shutter, or Manual and 5 seconds without one
  3. f/7.1 to f/11 and ISO100
  4. Compose your shot before it gets dark and then set your lens to manual focus
  5. Be conscious of crowds and people setting up in front of you
  6. Check your preview and histogram after a couple of shots and adjust aperture as needed
  7. Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy yourself!

Need more information? Read on…

Fireworks photography equipment:

  • Camera (duh) – one that you preferably have manual control over
  • The wider the lens the better, or fully zoomed out for point and click cameras
  • Tripod
  • Remote shutter release

Fireworks photography settings:

  • Bulb mode if you have a remote shutter trigger, Manual mode without one
  • Using Bulb and a remote shutter trigger you control the exposure length
  • Using Manual mode set exposure time somewhere around 5 seconds
  • Aperture around f/7.1 to f/11
  • ISO100
  • Noise Reduction off

Fireworks photography technique

Fireworks from Skyfire 2015 in Canberra

Camera settings: 8.6sec f/7.1 ISO100

The tripod is essential (unless you have a flat steady surface you can use) and a remote shutter release if you can – generic brands can be had at your favourite camera store. Personally I use Bulb and a remote shutter release so I can control exactly when and how long I want the shutter open. Once I hear the thump of fireworks mortars firing I’ll trigger the exposure, and once I’m satisfied with the glory that has filled the sky I’ll close it.

Remote shutter release

Remote shutter release

If you don’t have a remote shutter then I recommend manual exposure time of only up to 10 seconds. Any longer and the image will become very busy. But have a piece of black card, a hat or similar you can hold in front of the lens so you can “stop” the exposure if you think you have a pretty good grouping and don’t want it washed out by subsequent fireworks. Also if you don’t have a remote shutter release ensure that you press the camera shutter button gently so you don’t introduce tripod shake into your images.

If you get there early enough compose your shot before it gets too dark. Focus the camera on something in the distance, or set the lens to infinity.  Lastly set your lens to manual focus and don’t touch it again – this is so it doesn’t try to refocus when you take shots later. It can also be nice to have something in the foreground too, give your fireworks a sense of place, trees, buildings, even people.  Do be conscious of where you setup though, with large crowds of people it can be all too easy for someone to camp in front of you and stand in front of your camera for the duration of the show – no fun at all.

Camera settings: 3.1sec f/10 ISO100

Camera settings: 3.1sec f/10 ISO100

Once the fireworks start check your preview and histogram after the first couple of shots of fireworks and make any corrections as needed.  Corrections might include opening or closing your aperture a stop or two depending on how bright or dark the fireworks appear. If you are getting lots of blowouts in the fireworks streaks on the histogram choose a smaller aperture (larger number). If the streaks look like they’re fading too early choose a larger aperture (smaller number).

Following the above settings – which is what I used for the fireworks photos on this page – you should get some pretty good shots and you will only get better with practice. Also remember to have fun and engage with the spectacular! Can be easy to get too hung up in your camera and forget to experience the show 🙂

Using my fireworks photos

Fireworks in this post were from the 104.7 Skyfire 2015 show in Canberra, March 2015. You can use my images on your site or social media for non-commercial purposes providing you include a link and attribution back to this site:

Photos by Glenn Martin – http://www.glennmartin.photography