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How to Photograph Fireworks
Manual Mode Tips, Photography Ideas

how to photograph fireworks
Summer is a time for catching lightening bugs, BBQs, pool parties and learning how to photograph fireworks. When learning to photograph fireworks it’s important to remember one thing – slow shutter speed.

3 Tips to help you photograph fireworks

1. Use a tripod.
Since you will be using a slower shutter speed you don’t want to rely on your shaky hands to hold the camera. In fact, some people prefer to use a remote when clicking your shutter button to keep even the slight movement of clicking the button from messing up their image. I push the button myself but that is up to you.

2. Slow that shutter speed WAY down.
This is the key to capturing really cool fireworks. Slow shutter speed! If you remember nothing else, remember this. To make sure your image is properly exposed with a slower shutter speed you will want to increase your aperture and lower your ISO. I played around with different shutter speeds to find one that captured the falling fireworks.

Do you see how the shutter speed wasn’t open long enough because it didn’t get a nice stream of the firework trail?
Settings: f/16, ISO 100, SS 1.3 secs
Shutter Speed – 1.3 secs
how to photograph fireworks (1 of 1)

This one is my favorite. I found my perfect shutter speed.
Settings: f/16, ISO 100, SS 2.5 secs
Shutter Speed – 2.5 secs
how to photograph fireworks (1 of 1)-2

Notice how the shutter speed was too long which caused the firework to be overexposed in the middle.
Settings: f/16, ISO 100, SS 5 secs
Shutter Speed – 5 secs
how to photograph fireworks (1 of 1)-3

3. Check your white balance.
Be sure to set your white balance so you don’t need to play around with it in post processing.

Remember to play around with your shutter speed because there is no perfect settings for fireworks. However, please don’t focus on capturing the fireworks so much that you miss enjoying them or even better, enjoying your little ones enjoy them!how to photograph fireworks (1 of 1)-4

18 Comments
  • Romina
    July 2, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    Hello, Courtney! I’m learning a lot with your site, THANKS!! I have a question, which is the best white balance setting for fireworks?
    Kisses from Buenos Aires :)

  • July 2, 2013 at 11:31 PM

    Hi Courtney, I would also love to know the best setting for white balance. Is it daylight, as when shooting the moon? Thanks, Karen

  • July 3, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    I love your last tip about getting the emotion from the little ones. As a photographer we sometimes are so focused on getting the main subject, or what we think is the main subject, that we forget about the real reason behind doing the things we do. The kids!

  • July 4, 2013 at 2:18 AM

    Thanks Courtney, I will have to try that out for sure tomorrow!! :)

  • July 4, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Looks like shutter speed is the most important, will give it a try and see if I can take some great shots tonight (4th of July)

  • Ari A
    July 7, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    I love this blog for my photography questions and general knowledge. You take some really great shots and I like to hear what you have to say. You keep your posts informative and recent. So many blogs get out of date or postings are irregular and few and far between. I recently took some firework photos using your tips. Thank you for the great advice. Keep up the great blog.

  • June 30, 2014 at 1:54 PM

    Shoot in RAW and you don’t have to worry about white balance. Also, including something of interest in the foreground improves the image. One of the favorites is a river/lake but other objects can add to the composition, too.

  • Dave
    July 1, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    What Jim said. Photos of fireworks in the sky with no architecture or details framing them are just boring fireworks photos. Shoot everything raw, it gives you white balance control and more exposure latitude.

  • July 1, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Thanks for the tips! This is on my “must-do” list this year!

  • July 1, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    Courtney, what settings did you use for the last shot of the kids? That one really intrigues me!

    • July 16, 2014 at 1:24 PM

      The settings are f/1.8, ss 1/80 ISO 6400 all with my 50mm.

      • November 19, 2014 at 7:46 PM

        With the 50mm, you have to be pretty far back I found out. Tried the fireworks recently, seemed like I was right on top of them or they were right above me which did not work out well. Thank you for your site. Truly appreciate the helpful information you provide.

        • Jason Bodden
          May 29, 2015 at 2:16 AM

          If you have a crop sensor camera then yes it might be an issue with the effective focal length being 75mm or 80mm and not 50mm because of the 1.5 or 1.6 crop factor.

  • July 4, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    Great tips for photographing fireworks. Thank you!! :) I’ve pinned this for later. Unfortunately we’re missing the fireworks this year – traveling all evening. Next year, for sure, though!! I love the photo of your little girl, btw. ♥

  • Nance
    July 4, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    Which lens are you using?

  • Dirk Steyn
    July 6, 2014 at 12:54 AM

    Learning a lot from this. Thank you

  • July 9, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    Thanks for a great article. I put some tips to use in my recent fireworks photography. I had been using faster shutter speeds in the past. I love my latest results and linked to your article in my post! http://www.partoflifephotography.com/july-4th-fireworks-frankfort-michigan-2014/

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