Introduction: Photographing Fireworks

Picture of Photographing Fireworks

Getting good photos of fireworks is easy.
Just follow this instructable...

Step 1: Equipment

Picture of Equipment

Camera that has manual settings

Step 2: Camera Setup

Picture of Camera Setup

Using a tripod is key, because you're going to be taking exposures that are 2 - 4 seconds long and the camera must remain completely still while the shot is taken.

You'll need to be able to manually set the exposure (shutter speed), Aperture (the f-stop), and ISO.

Depending on your camera and how close you are to the fireworks, you will need to adjust the f-stop to fine tune the pictures.

Longer exposures will capture multiple fireworks bursts. 2 to 4 second exposures work great.

Step 3: ISO

ISO is the 'film' speed that the camera is using. In digital cameras the electronic pickup can capture images at various speeds.

You'll want to use a low ISO value, around 80 - 200. Although most cameras can shoot at higher ISO's such as 1000, the images will have more 'noise' and look 'grainy'.

I used an ISO of 125 for the photos in this instructable.

Pick a low ISO and stick with that. If you find that the photo is underexposed, adjust the aperture.

Step 4: Aperture

Picture of Aperture

This is the iris of the camera and the f-stop settings control the aperture.

The larger the f-stop number, the smaller the iris is open.

What aperture to use depends on your camera, and how close you are to the fireworks.

You will most likely need to adjust this setting. Take some shots at around f-8 and if they look to be underexposed use a lower value. Overexposed then use a higher value.

The photo below was at f-11 and is under-exposed.

I found that f-5 worked for me.

Step 5: Exposure

Picture of Exposure

A 2 - 4 second exposure will get good shot.

I used an exposure of 4 seconds for the pictures in this instructable.

The main thing to keep in mind is when you press the shutter release, the camera has to stay completely still. If you bump it during the exposure, it will blur things.

If you are using a film camera, a cable release or bulb that attaches to the shutter release can be used. It will allow you to press the button without shaking the camera, and you can hold it for any desired length of time.

Lithops suggested these great tips:

"if you want multiple fireworks in one shot, usually the other lit parts of the frame are badly overexposed, especially if you use longer exposures than just a couple of seconds... Just cover the lens with something like black foam rubber but just make sure that it covers enough beyond the lens. And be careful not to touch and shake the camera while doing that. Then simply take it away snappy when you see more fireworks shooting up."

"And you can use the cameras self timer... " (to prevent bumping the camera when pushing the shutter release)

Jeff-0 gave this great tip:

"When I hear the "thump" of the firework being launched I hit the trigger, and release when the firework has burned out."

Step 6: Conclusion

Use a low ISO and adjust the f-stop to get the shots you like. Play around with the manual settings to see what effect they have on the resulting image.

These same settings can be used to photograph lightning, too!

Have fun, and enjoy the summer.

- Brett @ SaskView

PS: thanks Instructable staff for featuring this!


ERCCRE123 (author)2009-07-08

this worked great! this is my best photo with these tips:

vincent7520 (author)ERCCRE1232011-11-03

congratulations ! … I think this is the best shot of all shown : composition, like any other graphic art, that's what photography is all about

scott! (author)ERCCRE1232009-08-07

Nice picture!

ERCCRE123 (author)ERCCRE1232009-07-08

couple of trees in the bottom, though

Sweet :-)

Xthinker (author)2011-07-04

My camera has light exposure and iso, but not f-stop. the light exposure is
so wich one?

JamesRPatrick (author)2011-07-03

I took this one last week at the Magic Kingdom. I just had the little tabletop tripod though and had to put it on someone's shoulder.

gnach (author)2010-07-01

A remote shutter release for digital is like the cable release. Any inexpensive "off brand" is usually fine. Practice using it first before going out on the 4th.

rrrmanion (author)gnach2010-11-06

or 5th if it's guy fawkes

kcls (author)2010-07-05

Here are some of my best from the fourth using your tips:

Well done!

Thank you!

Lithops (author)2009-07-03

Nice 101 on fireworks photography :) It's not as hard as it might seem nor do you need expensive SLRs... One thing came to mind that i use and is not in this tutorial: if you want multiple fireworks in one shot, usually the other lit parts of the frame are badly overexposed, especially if you use longer exposures than just a couple of seconds... Just cover the lens with something like black foam rubber but just make sure that it covers enough beyond the lens. And be careful not to touch and shake the camera while doing that. Then simply take it away snappy when you see more fireworks shooting up.

Silence (author)Lithops2010-06-30

Making sure your cameras exposure is calibrated is probably a good thing as well to get true colours etc. I tried fireworks about a year ago with my first DSLR, an Olympus E-410, using I think 10 sec exposure and the self timer at 2 sec or something like that. I was on ISO 800 and cant remember the rest, most were over exposed, but some turned out pretty good, it depended on how big and bright the firework was. Took over 300 shots and picked the best ones out. A cable release is really the best way to go.

Avatar_I_Am (author)Lithops2010-06-28

That is basically what we have been doing for the last 30 years or so, but you can use a can [coffee, oatmeal, etc.] painted black on the inside, or a black baseball cap, to cover the lens for multiple shots on one frame. Just make sure to use a cable release to keep teh shutter locked open. That is one problem with many- if not all- of the entry level cameras: No cable release feature... Most of all, have fun and don't forget to enjoy the fireworks! Same way works for Lightning, too!

Thanks for the tip, I've added it to step 5!

WhyIsThisOpen (author)2010-06-30

When I shot fireworks last summer I used a high ISO (1600) and low aperture (f/5 or less) and got nice shots. They were different, instantaneous of course, but that allowed me to shoot by hand. Maybe this year I can try a tripod and see how I like the motion effect of a longer exposure.

flamekiller (author)2010-06-29

Another tip, if I may suggest it: Take your surroundings into consideration. Whether it's the spectators, structures (such as bridges, buildings, etc), or natural features (hills, trees, water), including them in the shot provides a sense of scale and place. Keeping these kinds of things in mind can turn an otherwise colorful but boring burst into a dramatic scene. In doing this, you may be walking a fine line on exposure of the shot. Experiment around with your exposure. If possible, visit the location of the show the evening before and look for opportunities. Try different shutter speeds and aperture settings, and different focal lengths (if you have the lenses to do it) and shooting angles. Try and imagine where in the sky the shells are going to burst. If you're familiar with a show, you probably have a good idea of what you're going to have to look for. Take lots of pictures that would include fireworks if they were there. Look at the pictures you took at home, on your computer at full resolution (NOT on that tiny LCD screen). Look at how the scene is exposed at a particular setting, and take this into consideration with what you'd like to get out of your shots. Don't be afraid to experiment while you're shooting the show, of course. Keep in mind that you aren't going to get a superb photo every time. Find what works for you - for your equipment and your style. If you don't find exactly what you like this time, well, there's always New Year's!

Great Tips, flamekiller!

kcls (author)2010-06-30

With the fourth of July coming up in a few days, I'll have to try this!

Logan M. (author)2009-07-05

Just go to full manual, set the camera to bulb mode, make your ISO sensitivity 200 (or the minimum of your camera), and make your f stop (or f number) the largest number possible

jeff-o (author)Logan M.2009-07-09

That's what I do. When I hear the "thump" of the firework being launched I hit the trigger, and release when the firework has burned out.

jbicb3 (author)jeff-o2010-06-29

The only problem with the "thump" method, is if you are a good distance from where the fireworks are being set off. Sound travels at about 1000 ft/sec, and light travels at about 190,000 MILES/sec. You will end up missing the tracer trail of the fireworks as they climb into the sky.

jeff-o (author)jbicb32010-06-29

Well, you're not listening for when the fireworks go off, you're listening for them being launched. It takes a while for the rocket to reach altitude. Enough time, in my experience, to trigger the shutter. Sometimes you can also see the flash when it's launched.

Great tip, jeff-o! I've added it to step five.

Cthulu (author)2009-07-03

My camera has a firework setting, but I'm wondering would it be better to do everything manually or use the firework feature?

92033 (author)Cthulu2010-06-27

My Good Friend, International Famous Glamour Photographer, PETER GOWLAND once said to me in answer of a question I asked him:


Make a Test and see for yourself. Then you'll know, eh? ~ ED

Ganoderma (author)Cthulu2009-07-03

You should check that out. Usually manual works better as you can adjust it if you don't like it (over/under exposed, grainy, longer/shorter exposure etc.)

I agree! I'm pretty sure that a fireworks setting will do an OK job, but it might not get as good a shot as fine tuning things....

Used the cameras built in fireworks setting and it worked beautifully. Ill post a link to them later. Thanks for the idea. I never would have thought to take pictures last night.

absolute zero (author)Cthulu2009-07-05

i wish i could have taken pics, i forgot my camera...

TyMan210 (author)absolute zero2009-07-05



Ganoderma (author)Cthulu2009-07-05

I'm looking forward to see the pictures :)

bowmaster (author)2009-07-08

How to take great pictures of fireworks: Set my camera on fireworks mode and put it on a tripod.

TyMan210 (author)2009-07-07

Thanks, it worked great!

gagfilms (author)2009-07-06

Very cool tips!

bruno13069 (author)2009-07-03

At my local fireworks, there were a number of people with cameraphones clicking away. I felt so geeky doing that, but it was fun. The pics weren't the best, but who cares! It was fun!

Geek=New sheik

Thank you!

winterfresh (author)bruno130692009-07-04

Definition of Sheik for the rest of us as defined by; Not all of us are literary geeks. I am a techno-geek. sheik also sheikh (shk, shk) n. 1. Islam a. A religious official. b. A leader of an Arab family or village. c. Used as a form of address for such an official or leader. 2. sheik Slang A romantically alluring man.

bruno13069 (author)winterfresh2009-07-05

I think that Saskview meant to say "Chic" - stylish or classy, but I'll take a comparison to Valentino as well!

Oops....ya I meant chic, not the brand of condoms :-D

Lftndbt (author)2009-07-04

Very nice I'ble. ISO and F-stops seem to be world atm. Been working on some lunar shots.... You could also take a series of shots and "stack" them with image editing software life registax... This would give you a much clearer shot yet takes some time editing.... this image isn't stacked, just through my 75mm telescope.

Thanx! And I appreciate the tip. Your I'bles are cool and very creative.

Yes, I have only recently discovered the software for stacking myself. Thanks!! ;)

cynical_chemical (author)2009-07-04

the exposure on my camera only says like.. -1. -2. 0, 1+, and 2+ what do i use plus do you know if there is a way to adjust the aperture on a powershot a430?

That's exposure compensation, but it doesn't let you set the actual f-stop. I've taken a look at the 430 manual and I don't think it will let you manually set exposure. :-( That model does have a fireworks mode that you can use.

Lithops (author)2009-07-03

And you can use the cameras self timer... IF Canon has that built-in in these point-and-shooters

Great tips!

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Bio: Frivolous Engineering is the end result of a hobby that got out of hand.
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