Fireworks Shooting Tips from a Pro Photographer Dreamer

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Hello Pro Photographer Dreamers!

Happy Independence Day to all of you in the USA – A day of remembrance, time to celebrate our freedoms – but also this time of year creates a great photo opportunity for those of us chasing our pro photography dreams.

I think photographing fireworks is best learned by trial and error – and that makes it tough when the good shows only happy a few times of year.

Lucky for us, each year on the 4th of July, Scott Kelby shares his post below on how to successfully photograph fireworks.  If you have his book, “The Digital Photography Book”  you will find this tip on page 175. 

Pro Photographer Scott Kelby’s tips for photographing fireworks:

1.  For starters, you’ll need to shoot fireworks with your camera on a tripod, because you’re going to need a slow enough shutter speed to capture the falling light trails, which is what you’re really after.

2.  Also, this is where using a cable or wireless release really pays off, because you’ll need to see the rocket’s trajectory to know when to push the shutter button—if you’re looking in the viewfinder instead, it will be more of a hit or miss proposition.

3.  Next, use a zoom lens (ideally a 200mm or more) so you can get in tight and capture just the fireworks themselves. If you want fireworks and the background (like fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World), then use a wider lens.

4.  I recommend shooting in full Manual mode, because you just set two settings and you’re good to go:

  1. Set the Shutter Speed to 4 seconds
  2. Set the Aperture to f/11. Fire a test shot and look at the LCD monitor on the back of your camera to see if you like the results. If it overexposes, lower the shutter speed to 3 seconds, then take another shot and check the results again.

Heads up: If your camera has “Bulb” mode (where the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the shutter release button down), this works great–hold the shutter button down when the rocket bursts, then release when the light trails start to fade. The rest is timing—because now you’ve got the exposure and sharpness covered.

To add to Scott Kelby’s list, here are a few of my own wanna be pro photographer fireworks tips:

Practice Practice Practice.  Sometimes its about pressing the shutter before you can see what the image will look like.  Trust your timing.  Practice hitting the shutter at the ‘boom’, and then a second later, and so on….so you can see how your images progress.

Escape the light.  The best place to shoot may not be right under the booming explosions.  If you are in a tight location, this may not  be possible.  I am lucky in that our local fairgrounds have surrounding hills that allow for set up above the light and still below the explosions.  Knowing where to go ahead of time is better than making that last minute decision.

Shoot in raw so you can play in processing.  Once you get your images into editing,  you could play with effects, color and contrast – lots of possibilities for some beautiful, artful photos.

Happy 4th of July, Dreamers!

Until next photo, keep shooting.




  • Catherine

    I love fireworks and especially photographs of fireworks!  It’s a great day to have a birthday.  My pictures of fireworks don’t turn out so well though…