How to photograph fireworks

It’s actually pretty easy to get the technical parts right, when taking pictures of fireworks, which means the important part is to think ahead and decide where you want to be in relation to the firework display, and what else you will want in your photograph.

I learned how to photograph fireworks, well, ummm… two days ago on the fourth of July, and it only took a simple web search and a few minutes of reading. Here is what I learned, but simplified.

1. Use a tripod. Your exposures will be 1-15 seconds long. You need to keep your camera still. Use a remote shutter release or your camera’s timer.

2. If you have the option to set your ISO, set it between 100 and 400. (Many of the articles I read in my search said 100, but I found I prefered 320 so that I could have a faster shutter speed.)

3. If you can set your aperture, set it between f8.0 and f16. This gives a good depth of field, without slowing down the shutter speed to much.

4. Turn off your autofocus if you can and focus on infinity. If you can’t, try to focus on a point near where the fireworks will be and lock your focus on that.

5. Set your shutter speed between 1 second and 15 seconds. The length of the shutter speed should depend on bow many bursts you want in the photograph at one time. The longer the exposure, the busier the image. The shorter the exposure, the more you are focused on just one or two explosions.

6. Start taking the picture when you see the firework launch. Your exposure is long, so it will catch all the action you want and more.

That covers most of the technical aspects. You should also think about what lens to use. If you are close to the fireworks, use a wide lens. You won’t be able to track the rockets very easily, so you will want to improve your chances by photographing more of the night sky. When I took my photos, I was mostly using a 70-200mm because I was farther away, and my only other lens I had brought was my 16-35 mm. The lens I wish I had brought was my 24-70 mm, which would have given me a little more of the boats and water, while still capturing the action.

Happy shooting,


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About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
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4 Responses to How to photograph fireworks

  1. Blythe says:

    Hi Galen
    I love all your pictures, but the fireworks ones have a special excitement to them. They’re beautiful!

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