Photographing Fireworks for Beginners


There's no better way to make a special event memorable than with a big explosion and a colorful burst of light. Fireworks are a common part of celebrations like New Year's Eve, Halloween, and, of course, the Fourth of July. But capturing them in photos can be a bit tricky. Let's go over what you should keep in mind.

What Makes a Nice Firework Picture?

While fireworks can be exciting in person, they can appear dull when photographed on their own. When they're by themselves, they might seem like something created on a computer. The most captivating firework photos usually include something else happening in the picture. It could be people in the front or fireworks lighting up a cityscape.


When the folks in charge of the fireworks put on a show, they do it to give us the best display. This means they launch fireworks one by one or in small groups, not all at once. Although this looks amazing in real life, it doesn't translate well in a single photo. Most firework photos are actually taken with a long exposure, capturing all the fireworks that lit up the sky over a period of 10 seconds, 20 seconds, or even longer.

The Technical Stuff

To take a picture of fireworks, you have two choices. The first one (which isn't great) is to hold your camera by hand and try to snap a photo when the fireworks go off. The second (and better) option is to put your camera on a stand called a tripod and use a longer time to take the picture, so the fireworks show up nicely. That's the method I'll talk about.


For the best photos, go to the fireworks spot early, before it gets completely dark. Set up your tripod and aim your camera where you think the fireworks will be. You might have to adjust it later, but arriving early helps you find the best spot and angle.

The lens you use depends on how far you are from the fireworks. A zoom lens gives you more flexibility to adjust to different situations. Usually, you won't be so far away that you need a really long lens. Something with a focal length between 18mm and 70mm works for most cases. Just make sure to focus manually.

The size of the camera opening (aperture) is less important than how long the camera is open (shutter speed) for firework pictures. You have to be far away from the fireworks for the background to matter. Set your camera opening to somewhere between f/8 and f/16, depending on how bright it is around you. If the fireworks are above a city, f/16 is better. If they're in a forest, use f/8 as a guide.


The fireworks are really bright, and since your camera is steady on a tripod, you don't need to worry much about the ISO setting. Keep it at 100 throughout. We'll control the brightness by adjusting how long the camera takes the picture.

There isn't a single "right" amount of time to capture fireworks. Whether you keep the camera open for 10 seconds or 30 seconds, what truly matters is the half-second when the fireworks shine the brightest. The main difference is that with a 30-second exposure, you'll catch more fireworks bursts, maybe five or six instead of just one or two. It also gives more time for the background to show up in the photo.


To begin, try setting the camera to stay open for about 10 seconds and take some test photos. If they look too bright, you can make the camera's "eye" (aperture) smaller or reduce the exposure time to five seconds. If the pictures seem too dark, you can make the aperture bigger or go for longer exposures, say 20 seconds. The best way to figure out what works is by trying different settings and seeing the results.

Other Tips and Tricks

Get ready to adjust your camera settings as the fireworks show progresses. As the display continues, there will be both bigger and quieter explosions. The settings that worked well in the beginning might make the brightest moments look too bright.

Also, pay attention to what's around the fireworks. Having an interesting foreground or a nice background can turn a good fireworks photo into a great one.


If you have a remote control for your camera, you can put it in Bulb mode. When you hold down the button, your camera's shutter will stay open, and you can control how long the exposure lasts.

Taking pictures of fireworks with your phone is quite challenging. It's often better to record a video instead of taking photos. Or, if you're using an iPhone, you can use an app like Slow Shutter Cam. Android users can look for long exposure camera apps (some Samsung phones even have this feature built-in). Just make sure to use a smartphone tripod for stability.

Above all, remember to enjoy the fireworks show. Don't get so caught up in taking pictures that you forget to savor the sounds and smells of the display.

Taking great fireworks photos may seem tricky at first, but once you have your camera on a tripod and use long exposure settings, it becomes much easier.

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