8 Helpful Tips for Firework Photography

8 Helpful Tips for Firework Photography

Each year millions of people pack up their cars and head to a local destination to watch the sky light up and crackle. Firework shows are not only a desired destination for families but also for photographers looking to capture that perfect firework photo to add to their portfolio. We want to help you capture a special photograph by offering you a couple tricks that will prepare you for the beautiful lights on Fourth of July.

 8 Helpful Tips for Firework Photography

  1. Make sure to bring a camera tripod when preparing to photograph fireworks! Firework photography requires long exposures and slow shutter speeds.

Using a sturdy tripod and a shutter release cord can keep your camera motionless and prevent you from ending up with blurry photos. It is a good idea to have a remote since you won’t know exactly when the fireworks will go off.

  1.  Always use manual focus instead of auto focus. For many cameras it can be difficult to use autofocus in low light situations. To prevent missing great firework shots try adjusting your camera to manual focus. Remember if you change focal lengths throughout the firework show it will mean you need to adjust your manual focus on most lenses. 
  1. Opt away from using a flash when shooting fireworks. No matter the power of the camera flash or add-on flash it will not be enough to reach the fireworks. Go flash less for the highest quality and clearest photos.

 4. If you’re having trouble adjusting the camera settings try starting at the lowest ISO possible and a slow shutter speed. The low ISO will keep the image high quality and the slower the shutter speed will enable you  to capture the light trails. Try setting the ISO range at 100 to 400 and choose an aperture between f/8 and f/16. In order to capture the light trails that the  fireworks will create start with a slow shutter speed around 1/15 second.

 5. It is important to plan ahead when preparing to capture firework photography. It will take time to set up your equipment, adjust camera settings, and scout out an ideal location to shoot from. Google Maps and Google Earth can be valuable tools to use in advance when looking to find the perfect location for shooting.

Take a look at this article on how to use Google Maps when planning out your next destination to photography. Since most shows occur at night remember to pack a flashlight or arrive early to set up your tripod and equipment. Arriving early will allow you to find a creative vantage point, for example, a body of water that will create a reflection of the fireworks.

  1. Most Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras have bulb mode. It is a good idea to check this setting out when preparing to capture firework photographs. The bulb mode is when the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the shutter release button. This makes it possible for you to open the shutter as the firework is going up in the sky and close it after the firework has finished exploding. Make sure to determine aperture and exposure settings prior to shooting since bulb is in manual mode.
  1. It is a good idea to capture most of your photos toward the beginning of the show to prevent smoke and haze from abstracting your photographs. At the beginning of the show the sky will still be clear and you will get the prettier photographs. The end of the firework show might be a better time to get close up photographs or abstracts. Depending on how dark of a sky you want in the backdrop of your photographs station yourself to shoot into the eastern sky not facing west. When shooting into the sunset the sky can get blown out and the fireworks don’t show up as clear as they do in a darker sky.
  1. Lastly, remember that a simple point and shoot camera can do the trick too! The photo below was captured by Andy Williams with a Canon SD 960 point and shoot camera and a Gorillapod by Joby. When taking this photo he put the point and shoot on “fireworks mode” and the self timer to 2 seconds on the Gorillapod. With the correct settings, point and shoot cameras can take great firework photographs!

If our readers have any more tips and tricks for shooting fireworks that the BL community should know please leave your comments below! 

The following two tabs change content below.

Katie Hayes

Katie Hayes is a recent graduate pursuing her passion for photography and marketing while interning with BorrowLenses.


  1. # 9 – Fireworks are hot! Set your white balance to daylight mode (56k). Seems counterintuitive to use it at night, but it’s what will give you the most accurate colors.

    That Golden Gate photo you posted might be an exception to this rule. In that case you may have to give up on accurate firework color to get accurate bridge (or disney castle) colors. But if you’re just shooting straight up, daylight color is the way to go.

  2. Google Tom Bricker. He’s the WDW fireworks go to guy and has shared a lot of his knowledge online. Also don’t forget that neutral density filters can come in handy when shooting fireworks.

  3. Get an OM-D and shoot in LiveComposite or LiveTime mode. 🙂

  4. There are several considerations that you might want to interject into future articles, and several related topics. For instance – how do you intend to work with the images you capture? For example, several of the images shown are obviously composites (e.g. Photos by Mr. Wiacek and Mr. Williams). No issue with that, but you definitely need to make sure you have locked in your field of view and held it constant – especially if your foreground or background is dynamic. Secondly – there are methods to shoot fireworks from a high speed photography point of view – I have a couple of friends who prefer that method. They boost the ISO to give them enough shutter speed once the bombs start bursting in air. It appears that Mr. Shastany’s image above may have been captured in that method ( though it could very well be a crop of a longer exposure). Once again, there is no right or wrong way. Finally, don’t forget environmental factors that will affect your images. For example, the San Francisco images above are wonderful – but what would happen if the usual marine layer (fog) starts to drift in just before your shot? What is plan B? Also, don’t forget that smoke builds up in the sky as the show builds to its climax – you might want to be upwind of the shoot if you are trying to catch that great finale photo or composition


  5. set your camera to M mode for 30sec or bulb and use a black cardboard to block on and off the fireworks, you can get amazing results as in everything it takes practices and patiences



  1. BorrowLenses is Closed 4th of July | BorrowLenses Blog: Photo & Video Gear Rentals - […] 8 Helpful Tips for Firework Photography […]

Leave a comment, a question, or show us your work!