Saturday, July 2, 2011

How do I photograph fireworks?

Scout it out before dark!

Pick your vantage point purposefully. Think of your foreground.

- Local buildings or landmarks. Sunsphere! (call a Knoxvillean, and they will explain).
- Try silhouettes of people (Be careful here. Slow shutter speeds means blurry people. Well, unless they're glued to a lawn chair. Likely on the 4th of July actually. God bless America!)
- Reflective surfaces such as water, car hoods, glass, etc.
- Be careful about wind direction (choose cross wind or up wind but NOT downwind or the smoke will be a problem)

Keep it Steady!

Use a tripod and remote/mirror lock-up if you can

Shoot Manually!

Set camera to "M"

Start with
- ISO 100
- Aperture = f/11
- Shutter Speed = Bulb (leave it open approx 4 seconds to start)

Check your results and adjust accordingly.
- Look at your histogram and check for "blinkies
- Use white balance to suit local lighting if including a lit foreground element.
- Daylight white balance may work best for fireworks-only shots
- Don’t use flash unless you intend to light a subject very close to the camera.
- Manual focus set to infinity

- Choose your focal length for composition – wide for strong foreground, telephoto for close up detail of the bursts.


If there isn’t wind, your first shots will be the best (smoke builds and detracts from later shots). If there is, position yourself upwind where the smoke will blow away from your vantage point.

If the sky still has sunset color, adjust your exposure accordingly (meter off the sky, time your shutter releases carefully).

Take tons of pictures. It's digital. Folks, here's some simple math... Digital = FREE!

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your friends and family!


  1. Thank uuUUU Paul!!
    Happy 4th of July from McAllen, Texas! : )

  2. Feedback:

    Thanks for the info on how to shoot fireworks. Decided to give it a try on the fourth. Your simple explanation provided all the details I needed to get some really great images. Remote, setting it at ISO 200, bulb and counting to 3 and of course a little anticipation made me succeed! Shocked myself.

    Congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

    Alice Reed - Knoxville, TN