I absolutely LOVE fireworks. To me, it represents something grand, magical and bigger than me. So whether I see them on the 4th of July or at a nighttime show at Disney, I’m intrigued.
Because of what they represent and how they make me feel, I love photographing them so I can not only enjoy them in the moment but go back and immerse myself in those memories over and over again.
But getting the perfect firework shot can be a little tricky. Not impossible for sure, but it can be daunting IF you don’t know what you’re doing.
Which is where I come in!
I’ve broken it all down into simple easy steps so that you can bound to capture those perfect firework shots.
And perhaps best of all, I’m going to show you how to capture awesome firework shots WITHOUT becoming a pack mule loaded down with a tripod, remotes, and heavy gear.
All you need is your camera and a lens!
So here it is…
7 Steps to Taking Great Firework Pics
1. Use a Wide Angle Lens
Remember wide angle means a low number like 20mm or 30mm. By using a wide angle lens you’re able to capture the entire shot in the sky without cropping portions out.
My favorite wide angle lens is my fixed Nikon 30mm f/1.4 lens. This baby stays on my camera almost constantly. It’s versatile and makes for those crisp clear pictures.
2. Don’t Use a Flash
Using a flash for fireworks doesn’t really do much. Your subject (the fireworks) are way too far away to even be affected by the flash and furthermore whatever it is lighting in the foreground will just detract from what you really what to focus on…the fireworks.
3. Go Low with Your ISO
When it comes to selecting your ISO, don’t let your camera make the choice…you do it! (So that means you will need to shoot in manual as opposed to auto. If this freaks you out, no worries, I’ll show you the exact camera settings you will need.)
Choose a low ISO setting such at 100 ISO. This will allow you to get those super colorful, crisp shots because it will minimize any Noise or graininess in your picture.
4. Choose a Narrow Aperture
Here’s another setting that YOU will set (because you’re in manual mode, remember?). When it comes to selecting your aperture, choose one that is on the narrow side. (Narrow means it’s a higher number like f/8 to f/16.)
A narrow aperture allows for a very wide plane of focus. So that means your entire photo will turn out nice a sharp.
5. Hold Still!
Because you will have a low ISO and a narrow aperture, your shutter speed is going to be on the slower side. Whenever you have a slow shutter speed you have the issue of possible camera blur.
To avoid that (without using a tripod), hold your body as still as possible.
Some of the best techniques I’ve found to do that is to lean my body up again a sold structure like a tree or a picnic table. Also, I like to use a squeezing motion to click the shutter button instead of tapping it. Even that small amount of a movement can cause some camera blur.
6. Use Manual Focus Setting
I know, I know…I’m already making you shoot in manual and now I’m making you use manual focus too! But hear me out…when you use manual focus you’re able to set your focus on a tree or building that is generally in the same area as where the fireworks will be going off BEFORE the fireworks start. (If there is absolutely nothing to focus on just focus on the sky and adjust the focusing when the fireworks begin.)
That way you will be ready to capture without the disruption of your camera trying to “find” the focus on each and every firework. It will save you so much headache.
And good news…because your aperture will be so narrow and the fireworks are so far away, your plane of focus will be super wide. No worries.
7. Get Creative
Tell the whole story of the evening by taking pictures of all that is happening, not just the fireworks in the night sky. Take some shots of your friends and family enjoying it,
Putting it all together:
Here’s how to choose your settings when shooting in manual:
1. Choose your ISO first. (Set it on 100 or 200 ISO)
2. Choose your Aperture (Set it anywhere from f/8 to f/16)
3. Choose your Shutter Speed (You do this by allowing your camera to “set it” for you. Look in your viewfinder to locate the light meter. This is located on the bottom of your viewfinder and looks like this:
Rotate your shutter speed dial until the little “tick mark” is aligned perfectly with the “0”.
That is considered “the perfect exposure”.
So your camera settings will be something like ISO 100, f/16, 0.6 sec.
Before the fireworks start, take some test shots and tweak the settings to get it just right.
BONUS TIP: How to Draw With Sparklers
When “drawing with light” like the star picture above, what you want to do is keep the shutter open on your camera long enough to capture the image.
For example, the info for this picture is ISO 100, 30mm, f/8.0, 4.0 sec. The shutter speed was open for 4 whole seconds.
Here is an example of trying to draw a circle using a sparkler and how the picture would turn out if the shutter was not open long enough:
And here it is with the shutter open longer:
Remember, because the shutter is open for such a long time you have to hold REALLY still or put your camera on a tripod. I just hand held these shots as you can see the background is a bit blurry but I don’t mind the look. I think it adds to the character of the picture.
If you enjoyed this quick tutorial on how to capture fireworks and you want to continue to take your photography to the next level, I am doing a 4th of July special on my best-selling workshop…Key to Photography 101: The Workshop.
Right now you can get it for 71% off! Use coupon code: July4th
Click here to check it out.
Welcome to Being Katie Brave! I’m so happy to have you here. If you’re looking to take better pictures (stress-free!), get the inside scoop on all things Disney World, or be inspired to live YOUR best life (even if especially if it scares you to death) …you’re in the right place. I ’ve written 3 photography books, our family lived at Disney World for 2 years, and wear my heart on my sleeve…all of which would never have come to pass if I didn’t push past my fears and step in the darkness. Join me as I share my adventure of life, one post at a time.