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Photography Advice for Fireworks

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

If you want to go out with a bang on New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, take some photos of fireworks displays. Here are some simple techniques for getting great fireworks shots.

Getting Ready
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Be prepared if you’re going to photograph fireworks. Check that you have enough memory cards and batteries. You should bring a tripod, a wide-angle or telephoto zoom lens, and arrive early. Place the camera on a tripod and switch to M (manual) mode; we want f/8 – f/16 for a larger DOF (depth of field) and a long exposure of 1-10 seconds. To take a photo with no blur, use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release. Attempt to capture multiple fireworks trails across the sky for a dramatic effect.

Include People
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Put yourself in a good position near the center of the action. It’s a great idea to include other visitors’ heads because it adds perspective and dimension. Set up your camera on a tripod and use a large aperture to keep things sharp. To keep digital noise to a minimum, set your ISO to 100. Wait for multiple fireworks to go off before taking the photo with a cable release. Don’t use flash because it will ruin the image’s effect, and use a longer exposure to capture the various stages of breathtaking fireworks.

Use a Slow Shutter Speed
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In order to capture the light trails, you should use a slow shutter speed, anywhere between 1 and 15 seconds. The longer the exposure, the more lines will appear and appear longer. Any faster and you would miss the extended moment of the fireworks exploding. To avoid touching and jiggling the camera, use the camera’s self-timer or a cable release to capture the image. If you don’t have anything to hold your camera steady, increase the ISO to increase your camera’s sensitivity to light. This will result in shorter exposures with no blur but expect more grain or ‘noise’ in your fireworks photos.

Click Away
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Keep the shutter button pressed halfway to avoid shutter lag (the time it takes between pressing the trigger and the camera taking the picture). When the right moment arrives, press all the way down to capture the desired image instantly. Allow the smoke to clear before taking your next shot to reduce the need to later edit the fireworks photos with software.

Shoot from a Distance
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Place the camera on a sturdy tripod and position it so that the bridge, water, and buildings are visible; we want to interest in both the foreground and background. Set the mode dial to AV (Aperture Priority), the ISO to 100 to 400, and an aperture of f/16 or greater. For a silky water effect, we want a long exposure of anywhere between 1 and 30 seconds. For a broader perspective, use a wide-angle lens (10mm – 42mm). You’ll want to disengage the autofocus on your lens, and set it to Infinity (the sideways 8 on the lens barrel); this isn’t always apparent on some digital lens, so you have to figure this out for your given lens. Use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release to take the photo with absolutely no blurring.

Use the lowest ISO possible to maintain image quality, and a slow shutter speed to capture light trails. You shouldn’t go faster than 1/15s, though some shots may require even longer shutter speeds if you use a small aperture. If the camera isn’t capturing enough light for the fireworks, lower the ISO to 50 and select the smallest aperture, around f/32. This forces the camera to use a slower shutter speed while still producing a high-quality image.

Equipment Suggestion

Always bring a tripod; there is no other way to use a long shutter speed without a camera shake. If the fireworks display is far away, use a telephoto zoom lens, or a wide-angle lens if you want to capture the surroundings or people at the event as well. Remember to use a low ISO for a high-quality image, and you can also choose a small aperture for a sharp image, though this requires your camera to be mounted on a tripod. To take the photo, use a shutter release cable or a remote – you can’t use a self-timer because you can’t predict when the fireworks will go off.


When it comes to shooting fireworks, one of the most important factors is timing. Always keep an eye out and get used to predicting when a firework will go off – you don’t want to catch it taking off or finishing. You want to capture the colorful burst of a firework. With some practice, you’ll be able to capture some stunning and appealing images for your portfolio.

Note: If you want to make some adjustments to the photo just let me know. I can do it for you at a very low cost. You can hire me to edit your photo.


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