Easy Firework Photography


Introduction: Easy Firework Photography

I Know this is a bit late for fourth of July, but fireworks still go on after the fourth

In this Instructable I will show you how to take great firework shots at night, with almost any camera.

Step 1: Get Your Camera

The camera i will be using is a Canon Rebel XTi , a SLR. Almost any camera with adjustable settings, can be used in this instructable. Almost any Canon Camera has settings like the rebel xti, so you should be able to follow along. I am certain that fuji and a few other brands have these manual settings. Other brands may work, but you will have to consult your manual for those.

Step 2: Figure Out How to Go to Manual Mode

In this step you will need to set your camera to a manual mode. If you have a SLR anything like mine you need to turn the dial on the top to "TV", which puts priority on shutter time. Depending on what camera you have you want to be able to adjust the time of the shutter.

Step 3: Set the Exposure Time

The exposure time of the photographs you take is critical to how you pictures turn out. A good place to start at is 1/6 of a second, on my SLR it displays 1/6 as a "6" in the bottom of the viewfinder when i focus the camera (push halfway down on shutter). On the SLR i have, to adjust the speed you rotate the dial on the top behind the shutter button. The first picture below is a photo taken at one second exposure, and is obviously over exposed. The second picture is taken at 1/64th of a second, and only captured the end of the firework explosion. The final picture is taken at 1/6th and is a almost perfect example of a firework picture. It will take trial and error to get this perfect. Remember to have alot of space available on your camera.

Update: From experiences of taken photos of fireworks since this instructable, and input from the instructables community, i would like to add that using manual mode, and adjusting your aperture and your shutter can ensure a better picture of fireworks. A fstop of around f/11 i have found to work great.

Step 4: Take Photos

Now that everything is set, sit, or stand and take your photos. Take one picture, look at it. If it has alot of white light, and is hard to see, then set to a exposure shorter time (on mine turn the dial right). If the picture is extremely dark, and you cant see anything, then set the exposure longer(left on mine). Once you have all your settings right, take alot of photos.


Step 5: Additional Tips

If you can, use a image stabilization, or a tripod. These pictures were taken with a image stabilization lens and a tripod. I was about a mile away from these fireworks, this allowed me to get photos without pointing my camera straight up, and having to sit down to look through the viewfinder. Try not to use a Night Mode, because this raises the exposure and creates a bad image.

Here is some fun firework photos



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    I used a old 35mm Zenit Camera. You need a tripod, Kodak or Fuji asa 100, use the bulb setting or with this camera you can lock the shutter open with the older T setting. Point is no camera movement. Set camera at f11-16, focus infinity, line up first burst. After that, use a piece of black cardboard cut like a index card as a shutter by opening the shutter with hand held carboard in front of lens. Move (or open) for exposure of 4-5 seconds during boost, put index card over lens (it doesn't need to be tight), then setup for next exposure.

    If you have a Canon P&S camera give CHDK Canon Hack Development Kit a try. One of the features is the ability to use scripts and save files as RAW. By using a Motion detection script I just point the camera at the sky, press the shutter to activate and sit down.


    1 reply

    I've heard about a lot of cool things you can do with CHDK, but ive never had a camera that can run it.

    I have fun taking pictures of fireworks. I forgot my tripod so I got some interesting shots, some are hard to tell that they are fireworks.

    shutter speed is less critical than f/stop for capturing fireworks. calibrate the aperture, then use bulb to mess with how the exposure changes the 'streaks'

    From CreativeLIVE's free fireworks photography class:

    If your camera happens to have a "bulb" setting, use 'bulb' to control how long the shutter stays open. longer exposures will result in streaks, shorter ones in sharp bits of the firework. Depends on the picture you're going for.

    Recommended with an aperture of f/11 to f/16. Fireworks are BRIGHT!

    I have read somewhere (probably www.kenrockwell.com ) that you should use either Image Stabilisation OR a tripod, but not both (i.e. turn off Image Stabilisation when using the tripod).

    3 replies

    You are correct. When you have image stabilization on it tries to guess which movements are not ones you as the photographer intentionally make. When you have it on a tripod, there aren't really going to be any movements for it to correct, and sometimes it tries to correct movements you INTEND to make, so you end up with a jumpy picture. Now, this probably won't affect taking stills very much, but is definitely an issue when you're taking video.

    I suspect the OR means for night shots, use either image stabilisation or a tripod at least. I can't see why image stabilisation needs to be off on a tripod except that it's not strictly necessary. Having both on however shouldn't be a problem because the image stabilisation compensates for the camera moving so on a rock solid tripod it may simply have nothing to do. The other trick for night time shots is to use delayed shutter mode so the camera settles before taking the shot from a tripod, but with fireworks etc. that's not always possible. This can also work when hand-holding the camera because you are more still (stiller?) if all you are doing is holding the camera and not also pressing the shutter. Have fun with your camera though!

    "Believe Nikon when they say don't use VR on a tripod. It screws up the image by adding blur! Likewise, if you brace the camera against something also turn the VR off."----- Source: http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/80400vr.htm

    Good writeup, Heinecke has the right idea with ISO 100 or lower, fireworks are amazingly bright as far as camera sensors go, i took these a couple years ago, very first time i've ever shot fireworks, you just have to get out there and do it, a tripod is a must!


    You should use the manual mode. F around 8-11 or even higher if the pictures are still overexposed. Furthermore you should use the bulb mode. Press the button when you hear/see the firework and hold it for about 1-4 sec. ISO 100 or 50. Don't forget your tripod.

    1 reply

    The bulb mode is good, but it is hard to get it just right because depending how far away you are the sound will come at different times. Also in the last step i say to use a tripod. Thanks for the comment!