Fireworks! I want a picture!

It’s the fourth of July and it’s time for fireworks. You know that the local show always has great fireworks but how can you get your camera to capture them? Here’s some tips on how to get that picture perfect celebration shot.

1) TRIPOD TRIPOD TRIPOD! Without this every shot you’ll have will have pretty squiggly blurry lines of abstract color. You must use a tripod to achieve a good fireworks shot because you’ll be shooting a 1 – 4 second exposure in order to get that nice streaking of the colors. Other tricks to stabilize your camera might work but if you want assurance of a steady shot get the tripod.

2) Set your camera to shutter priority (Tv) and set the shutter speed to around 2 seconds (this will be adjusted during the show to allow single fireworks shots and long streak multiple firework shots). Now, with this long exposure your going to get ambient light washing into your image so to compensate for this set your camera’s stop ev to -2.0. This will allow the image to be dark and only the fireworks to show (also the glare from the brightest fireworks will be diminished). Above all NO FLASH! It’s no good and you’ll get foreground clutter that’s out of focus (EEEEWWWWW!!!).

3) In the dark autofocus will not be fast enough to focus on the fireworks before they disappear so you’ll need to focus manually and then leave it that way. At first aim at a far away point hopefully this will be close to the focal point you’ll need. Once the fireworks start, quickly refine the focus.

4) Now all that’s left is ensure your tripod doesn’t get bumped and press the shutter button immediately after the previous picture is taken (it takes roughly 2 to 3 seconds in between salvos for new fireworks to appear). Don’t get hung up on previewing your pictures just keep pressing the shutter button.

5) After about 10 shots double check your focus. It’s possible the lens vibrated from the mirror slap and you’re getting blurred images. Once done keep shooting. Even a 1GB memory card should be able to have enough room for a 10 to 15 minute show. Fill it up and you’ll bound to get some great keepers.

Happy Independence day!


About Mark Birks
Professional photographer specializing in fine art photography and portraiture.

3 Responses to Fireworks! I want a picture!

  1. Paul says:

    Thanks — gonna give all this a try tonite.

  2. sorrentolens says:

    Well, I gave it a try.. but… the photos turned out awful.. Try again another time. Hope you had a great holiday weekend.


  3. starstruckimages says:

    I’m sorry things didn’t work out. What kind of camera do you use? I used a canon rebel xt with an 18 -55 mm lens set to 40 – 55 mm depending on effect desired. Also the camera was selecting it’s aperture pretty wide somewhere around 3.5 to 4.0. If you used a point and shoot, I’m not sure how well it would work. (I’ve never used one for this.) I’ll research this more for you just let me know what camera you use.

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