How to Photograph Fireworks

Fireworks by jarito at Flickr:

Fireworks by jarito at Flickr:

If you’re thinking about going out and photographing some July 4th fireworks, there are a few simple tips you need to know to be successful. It’s not hard but following these suggestions can greatly improve your results.


Most important tip! You’re going to be shooting some long exposures and the tripod will make a huge difference in your results.


Try to get there early, before it’s truly dark. Try to imagine and predict the arc and height of the upcoming display so you can frame properly. (VERY IMPORTANT: your photos will be vastly improved if there’s interesting subject matter in the frame OTHER than the fireworks, such as a glimmering city skyline.)

Photo by davedehetre at Flickr:

Photo by davedehetre at Flickr:


For decent results, go with a low ISO, 100 or 200. There will be enough junk in the air once the smoke starts up, if you’re close to the source of the fireworks.


You want to shoot this on manual exposure. If your camera has a built-in flash, make sure it’s off. Pick a middle-of-the-road aperture, say  f8 to start. Now set your shutter speed on the ‘Bulb’ setting. This will keep the lens open as long as you press the shutter.

The fireworks will be surprisingly bright (and loud!) so you’ll want to try different amounts of time for each exposure, till you get a sense of what’s working. When you get a feel for the rhythm of the fireworks, you can try opening the exposure before the rocket goes off, letting it burst, and then deciding when to close the shutter. I count the seconds in my head and try different exposure times.


Check your results! Make adjustments as you see what’s working best. As I said above, having some architectural or other element besides darkness in the frame will add visual interest to your results.

So pick your location, frame your shot, lock your tripod down tightly, and enjoy the display!

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

4 Comments on "How to Photograph Fireworks"

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  1. JP Claitor says:

    your pictures came out great! I have a canon rebel EOS, do i have the option of the bulb- shutter speed?

  2. Put the camera in ‘Manual’ mode, then turn the shutter speed dial until you see ‘Bulb.’ Now the shutter will stay open as long as you press the shutter button down.

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