Firework tips

There’s an influx of firework photography tips circulating around; I’m sure if you’re online reading this, you can google it just fine. That said, if for some reason, you don’t want to google, here’s my list!

Materials needed:

  • A tripod or a stable surface
  • A remote shutter release, either cable or cord. Ability to lock the shutter open is bonus
  • Wide lens and/or a zoom


Fireworks & the Saturn V

    1. Scout: If you know where they’re setting off fireworks, scout out a good spot in advance.  Try and visualize how it’ll look…is there something interesting in the background or foreground? A cityscape, a mountain, something? If not, try and make sure your view is clear – no pesky tree branches. It’s easier to scout in daylight. If you think it’ll be crowded (and it likely will be, unless your spot is in an obscure location), go secure it a few hours before the start time.
    2. Exposure time: While you could set your camera to a very long exposure time, I find that it can be a little hard to hear the shutter release while the fireworks are going full blast. However, if you set the camera to bulb mode, and use your cable/wireless remote to lock and unlock the shutter open, you can control the exposure time much more easily. Heck, you can just sit down, get comfy and enjoy the show once you get the hang of the rhythm.
    3. Prefocus: if you’re close enough you can’t shoot at infinity, you’ll want to find something that’s approximately same distance away. Some AF will have trouble locking onto the firework sparks, and it’s a pain to try get it set just right when it’s dark. Once you’re sure of your focus, turn the AF off.

Red and blue

    • Experiment: check your results periodically and make sure the results look okay. Use the preview to help gauge your exposure time; if they look underexposed or all you see are rocket trails, you may need to lengthen the exposure time. Also, try swapping out lens if you have a spare one for a different look; for example, you could zoom in close for a more intimate photograph.


  • Experiment, pt 2: Look for an unexpected angle. Shoot people’s reactions, for example. Or take advantage of people walking in front of your view. Or …
  • Tip: They often do a few test fires at beginning before they start going full blast; use this opportunity to figure out what settings your camera should have, then stop it down once or twice to compensate for the extra light.

Enjoy the show! Happy Fourth of July!