How to Photograph Fireworks

Firework displays are a sign of celebration of important events around the world, and knowing how to photograph fireworks well means you’ll always have fond memories of them. For brief moments, we’re dazzled and captivated by its brilliance before it fades away forever. With a few basic starting points, tools and essentials, one can capture these moments with a digital camera that gives life and longevity to these joyous moments. Firework photos are simply amazing! Even if you’ve never tried photographing a fireworks display, it’s relatively easy to do so using the information presented below.

So, shooting fireworks easily is not a troublesome task!

shoot fireworks
Image by Mike Enerio

Essential Equipment & Equipment For Photographing Fireworks

As a photographer, while studying how to shoot fireworks, you have to know some very important things – You need a tripod fund cable release for your camera.

This can cheap enough gear (if you don’t already have one or both). It tripod stability standing aside as the crowd moves is critical to the quality of the final image.

Cable release is equally important for image quality like for time setting. You must avoid camera shake.

Cable release is also possible You watch the show while your camera and thumb are working – neat!

Photographing fireworks doesn’t require expensive equipment, so sit back and relax!

shoot fireworks
Image by Christine Aube

When Learning How to Photograph Fireworks, Be Prepared!

See online map; call committee be in charge of hosting fireworks displays, and talk to people like traffic control when you get to a scene early.

You will have a better guess which lens and starting focal length you have to capture as much fireworks action as possible. It goes without saying that you want to incorporate setup time into your shots.

If possible, try to place it something static in the frame for a reference point to Earth. For example, trees, architecture, background landscape features, you name it add composition from the shot.

Important Elements To Consider In Firework Photography:

  • Fireworks launch time
  • Fireworks climb
  • Split in the sky
  • Lastly, the downward curving path under the influence of gravity would become crucial through the evolution of the fireworks display

Top Tips!

Set it at dusk to allow your eye to see the features of the landscape.

Auto Focus Or Manual Focus For Fireworks Photos?

I recommend using full manual mode however start with auto focus [AF] on the lens. For the first one or two fireworks, use the camera to adjust your focus using AF – especially when you’re just starting to learn how to shoot fireworks.

display chimpanzee and check sharpness and focus. If it’s good, hurry up but be careful set the lens to manual focus [MF] so it doesn’t keep trying to refocus throughout the show.

Note: Every 6 or 7 minutes of fireworks, repeat the AF to MF procedure. Why? When the night air turns chilly and the batteries and digital sensors heat up after the sun goes down, your focus subject to change due to thermal expansion and contraction.

The wind direction may change enough to push the display forward or back over your depth-of-field range. Keep your target in focus!

dark sky fireworks photography
Image by leongkinkeong1

To Get Started, Try The Following Settings

  • Auto White Balance [AWB] – shoot in AWB Mode to make it easier on yourself. Firework displays vary in intensity, color, and density of light against a relatively black background. I’m not sure any are good one size fits all getting close beyond AWB Mode, even trying to shoot one fireworks sequence in particular and use it for the rest of the show. I’d suggest resigning to some software post-processing work and using AWB. I don’t want to use software to add post-processing sharpness. I didn’t really like the fringe created where the burnt tracks crossed each other in the final.
  • Noise reduction [NR] – turn off. It won’t play a key role because the exposure is relatively short, and once the fireworks break out in the sky there will be a lot of light in the scene contrasting against the black background of the night. Your sequential shutter shots will be much faster, preventing you from missing too many shows as the NR cycle runs its course.
  • Aperture f/11 – this aperture setting strikes a good balance between depth of field and exposure value – this is a good starting point. Firstly, fireworks are 3D objects with volume. So you want to use a sufficient f-number to keep all of the exploding and burning chemical shells in sharp focus from front to back or in the depth of field. It’s also worth noting that f/11 is a great aperture for letting in bright light fast enough to register on the sensor but quickly falling against the black background of the night sky.
  • ISO 100 – this is a general purpose ISO Value. This will keep the trail of the fireworks burning bright and sharp and reduce the noise usually associated with long exposures at night.
  • shutter speed – 4.0 seconds – a general purpose shutter speed setting that may need to be adjusted based on field conditions and ambient light. You have to avoid camera shake!
  • Lens – If starting with a kit lens [18-55mm], set it somewhere between 18-35mm. The lens and focal length will depend a lot on how close or far your photography location is from the fireworks launch location. You may need a smaller, lower focus range if you get too close. The reverse is true. The important part is that your focal length will be the controlling parameter of how much or how little the fireworks display fills your framed shot at a relatively fixed location.

Shooting Fireworks – Setup Overview

  1. Use a tripod
  2. Always use a cable remover
  3. Aperture = F11 – Work wider from this point
  4. ISOs = 100
  5. Shutter speed = 4 seconds (use bulb mode)
  6. Focal Length 35mm (crop Sensor) as a starting point
  7. Do some homework and plan. Enjoy the show!
fireworks photography
Image by Nitish Meena

More Tips!

Trying to master how to photograph fireworks in town and city centers require a bit more patience and fiddling with technical settings due to the backlighting of the surroundings.

Good luck and have fun!

Further Resources

Further Learning

A solid blog post like this one will get you started learning how to photograph fireworks and get some great results. It does have limitations. If you want to dive into the art of fireworks photography (which is a pretty deep rabbit hole), you may want to get a more in-depth guide. The best right now is Richard Schneider’s ebook on the topic (and it’s usually on sale 4th of July) so have a look here.

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