How to Capture Firework Displays

Photo by Le Kiet

Today is the day and you’re going to take the best firework images of your life!  There’s going to be so much going on, not just in the sky but around you.  There are basic guidelines and photo tips that can be followed to ensure that you capture sharp images on this momentous holiday.  Remember photography is all about self-expression and creativity, so don’t throw all that goodness out of the window when trying to capture this dazzling light show.



Here are some photo tips to get you started.

Keep it steady

A good foundation is always the best starting point and by this, we mean utilizing your sturdiest tripod.  With low light conditions from the night skies and long exposure times(we’ll get to that in a bit), you will want your camera to be as “steady as a rock.”  Another great tool that will help with the steadiness of your shot is using an electronic shutter release.  Sometimes the excitement can raise your adrenaline, or an excess of caffeine could result in an extra shakiness of the hand and why worry about it when you don’t have too.


Scout the location for your pictures.

It’s always best practice to start investigating the terrain and angles a day or two ahead and it never hurts to arrive hours ahead of showtime to get the best seat or vantage point.  Depending on what and how you want to shoot your fourth of July festivities may determine where you will want to be.  A good tip is to seek out the higher ground this will ensure that you are not bogged down by the sea of people.  Perhaps you’re not concerned with capturing surrounding structures in your images but just a nice black backdrop to your crisp light bursts.  It is all up to you!


Photo by Sharosh Rajasekher
Photo by Sharosh Rajasekher


Aperture, Shutter Speed and Iso

Now, is the time to go full manual mode and turn off your flash.  These settings will vary depending on what you are going for in your image, but for a general sharp firework shot, these settings will be a good starting point.  You will want to start the aperture around F-11, but possibly opening up to an F-8 or even an F-5.6.  When your aperture is closed down the light trails will be thinner, yet if you open up too much you are risking that your image will be overexposed.

With a steady tripod and an electric shutter release by your side, you’re ready for a longer exposure time.  Your shutter speed can be handled one of two ways, guessing on the exposure time, anywhere from 2 to 10 seconds or by switching to bulb mode and manually opening and closing your shutter for your desired effect.   Both options may require reshooting as trial and error are just the nature of the beast.  You will want to turn off the long exposure noise reduction as this can increase the time in between shots.  Also, stick to a lower ISO like around 200 or even 100.  When you have a higher number ISO this can introduce more noise into your image and that can be frustrating.


Get Focused

Ditch your autofocus.  Finding focus in a sea of fireworks can be hard, and your camera’s light meters can get confused while finding a spot to focus on.  Instead, use the manual focus and aim for a building or structure that is far in the distance.  If you have the option on your camera, you can set it to infinity focus this really is your best bet to getting the clear shots that you’re striving for.


Full Charge and empty memory sticks

Having enough juice for the night is essential.  So make sure you charge all your batteries ahead of time and try not to use your LCD screen too much, for this will eat into your battery life.  Also, don’t forget to bring a couple of memory cards, because you never know if this will be the night that you take a thousand shots.



Have fun and enjoy the show.  We are excited to see all your awesome firework display shots.  You can also submit your images to “Lights in the Sky” photo theme challenge for the chance to be featured.


Happy 4th of July everyone!!