Taking Pictures of Fireworks

With 4th of July around the corner, here are some tips for taking great pictures of fireworks.

July 4th 2012 (8)

1 – Use a tripod.

You will need to use Manual mode on your camera.  Set the shutter speed to about four seconds.  The long shutter speed will expose during the full motion of the launch, explosion and sparks.  At this shutter speed, the tripod is essential.  If you have a remote trigger, you should use that too.  It will prevent any vibrations caused by having your fingers on the camera.

If you do not have a tripod, improvise. I took this set from a hotel window during a trip when I happened to be tripod-less.


I held the camera against the glass of the window and they turned out okay.  Using a tripod would have been much better.

2 – Stop down the Aperture.

This is why you need to put the camera into Manual mode.  With a long shutter speed, your camera is going to automatically open the aperture all the way.  If you look back at that Detroit set linked above, you’ll see that I had the aperture wide open (it was a long time ago and I didn’t have much of a clue) and I used a very short shutter speed.  Compare those pictures with this set.

Fireworks are incredibly bright points of light.  Use an aperture setting around 8 to capture the firework light without the background light.  After a couple of shots, check one of your pictures to see how they look.  You can always make small adjustments to the aperture to get the best effect.

3 – Set the ISO to 100

The lowest ISO on your camera is going to give the best quality of  picture.  If you have the camera on automatic ISO, it will probably max out the number to get the most sensitivity.  You do not want that.  A low ISO will have little noise and on a black background, the noise will be noticeable.

4 – Have Fun

Independence Day is the quintessential American holiday.  We love fireworks and we would love to see your pictures of them.  Take some pictures and share them with your social network.  It will make the holiday that much more enjoyable.

Update – Here’s a set from the 2013 fireworks.  I played around with the shutter speed and did a few at 30 seconds.  You can see all the information in the EXIF data on each photo.


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