Photographing Fireworks

Photographing fireworks

Here are some tips for photographing professional fireworks shows on the Fourth of July.
You can also use them as a starting point for home fireworks, but you will probably need to adjust your shutter speed.

General Tips:
  • Support - Use a tripod, counter top, tree, or other solid surface to support the camera. Handheld fireworks photographs are usually blurry due to camera movement.
  • Focus - If you have a camera that has manual focus, turn off the auto focus and set the focus to infinity manually. An easy way to do this is to autofocus on something very far away and then turn the autofocus off.

    For Canon and many newer Nikon SLR lenses the manual focus switch is on the lens. For older Nikon and many other SLR lenses, the manual focus switch is on the camera body; look for it on the front of Nikon cameras on the lower left hand side.  Set the lens to MF while taking firework shots. Be sure to return it to AF when you are finished. On most point and shoot cameras, your focus is set to infinity automatically when in the fireworks scene mode. If you are shooting your point and shoot camera using manual exposure instead of the Fireworks scene mode, look for manual focus (MF) under the function menu, on a MF button, or under the same button used to set the camera to close focus (macro)

Photographing fireworks with a point and shoot camera

  1. Scene Mode - Find the scene mode dial or button on your camera. Set your camera to the fireworks mode, which can usually be found under the SCN, Scene, or Function buttons or under the regular menu.
  2. Support your camera while depressing the shutter button to take photos. If you are using a tripod consider using a remote for less camera shake.
What your point and shoot camera does in the fireworks mode:
  • sets the focus to infinity
  • sets the ISO automatically
  • sets the shutter speed to one or 2 seconds
  • sets the aperture automatically
  • sets the white balance automatically

Photographing fireworks with a digital SLR or advanced point and shoot
  1. Focus - Set your focus to manual and set your focus to infinity.
  2. Mode - Set your exposure dial to M.
  3. Shutter Speed - Change your shutter speed to 2 second (2"). This is normally the number which appears in the left of your viewfinder and lcd display.
  4. Aperture - Set your aperture to f/ 5.6 or f/8
  5. ISO - Set your ISO to 200 or 400
  6. (Optional) set your white balance to daylight.
  7. Take photos with support. Support your camera while depressing the shutter button to take photos. If you are using a tripod consider using a remote for less camera shake.
  8. TEST - Take a test shot. If your photo is too bright, change your shutter speed to 1 second. If you need more light or longer fireworks trails, set your shutter speed to 4 seconds.
Once you are finished, reset your camera back to autofocus, auto white balance and your normal shooting mode.

© Michele A. Burton

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