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How to Photograph Fireworks

Photographers' tips for capturing the sparkle in the sky.

(Patch file photo)
(Patch file photo)

Written by Edward Maurer 

Capturing fireworks on camera is a challenge that can be mastered easily with the right equipment and settings on your camera.  Here is a short tutorial to help you capture the rockets' red glare this Fourth of July.  

Equipment needed:

  • Camera: Either point-and-shoot or an SLR.
  • Tripod: To keep the camera steady and prevent motion blur.
  • Flashlight:  To see the camera settings in the dark.
  • Wireless Trigger: Not necessary but it helps to prevent camera shake. 

Steps to take (follow with the photos above): 

  1. Mount camera on a tripod, keeping it low to the ground and making sure nothing obstructing your view of the fireworks. 
  2. Set camera to fireworks or scene mode and make sure the flash is off. 
  3. Set the focus to infinity.
  4. To reduce noise, set the ISO to 100, and then arrange your shutter speed and aperture. 
  5. Most fireworks only last a few seconds, so set the shutter speed for 2 seconds and adjust if necessary. Keep aperture around F/8.
  6. When the rockets start flaring, press the shutter or your wireless remote. Watch the beautiful photos appear before you.

Some tips from Patch readers:

  • "One tip I'd like to pass along is that when photographing fireworks location is important. Figure out the wind direction and try to position yourself upwind. Fireworks leave behind a LOT of smoke and if you're downwind after the first few shots there will be a smoky haze. Also, don't forget to get some wide shots that include the surrounding landscape when the burst goes off and remember to keep the horizon level. Have fun!"
  • "I own my own fireworks company as well as document all our shows with pictures and video. I am using a NIKON Coolpix S70 and I found, and it is probably the same with most cameras, that if you use the sports setting with no flash and take the picture right as the fireworks bursts in the sky you will get perfect fluid pictures of the entire life of the shell. Just an FYI."
  • "You will want to underexpose by about 3 stops to make the background sky dark. The bright fireworks will still show up. Next you will want to step down your lens to increase the depth of field and slow down the shutter. A shutter speed around 10 seconds would be nice. Focus at infinity, and shut off auto focus, it will hunt in the night sky. On a digital camera, set your ISO slow to about 200, and turn off auto white balance, set it to flash to warm up the colors a bit. Good Hunting and Enjoy the Fireworks."

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