Photographing Fireworks: A Celebration of Light and Color

by Kerry Drager

White and Red
White and Red
© Jim Miotke
All Rights Reserved

Photographing Fireworks: Tips and Techniques

But recording fireworks pictures involves planning and preparation, as well as some special shooting techniques. Not sure how to proceed? Fortunately, the subject has come up often at Here are some quick tips from BP shooters:
  • Use a tripod and cable release.

  • Arrive early in order to pick a good vantage point - one without obstructions (unless you plan to use a distinctive form as a foreground silhouette ... i.e., person, statue, etc.).

  • Turn off the auto-flash - it won't help for distant subjects.

  • Set focus to infinity (via Manual mode).

  • Wide-angle or "normal" focal lengths are usually recommended for fireworks photography.

  • It's impossible to predict things perfectly ... so plan to shoot a lot of images.

Fireworks IX
Fireworks IX
© Jim Miotke
All Rights Reserved

How to Shoot Fireworks: More Techniques by Charlotte Lowrie

The following was written by BP instructor Charlotte Lowrie

For those of you who are in the United States or elsewhere where fireworks will be a feature of summer activity, I thought I'd
share my tips on exposing for fireworks. Note: This technique works for fireworks at a good distance away, not for close-up shooting.

    1. Mount the camera on a tripod and point the lens toward the area where the fireworks will explode.

    2. Use a telephoto lens or set the lens you have to the longest telephoto zoom setting.

    3. Focus the lens on infinity--the fartherest point at which the lens will focus. For setup, focus on a distant tree or rock or star.

    4. Set the camera to M (Manual) mode. Then set the exposure thusly:

      ISO: 200
      Aperture: f/11
      Shutter Speed: 1/3rd sec.

Now it's a matter of timing to catch the explosions at their peak before the smoke begins to form. Take some practice shots, and you'll soon get the hang of it. Then you can take a seat next to the camera, pressing the shutter button once in awhile as you enjoy the show!

You can also capture multiple bursts on the same frame by setting the camera to Bulb and using a black card to cover the lens between bursts. When a burst happens that you want to capture, remove the black card from the lens for a few seconds, and then replace the black card until another burst happens. This takes some practice, but can result in great shots! It's also advisable to use a cable release, instead of pressing the shutter button with your finger.

Still More Tips for Photographing Fireworks

Type in the word "fireworks" in BetterPhoto's Search Site, and then check the QnA and photo-discussion sections. Some links to get you started:

About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
Photography Instructor: Kerry Drager
Kerry Drager is a professional photographer, teacher and writer who is also the co-author of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light. He has taught many photography courses (online and in person), seminars and field workshops.

Be sure to check out Kerry's website -

Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.

Also follow Kerry on Facebook, where he posts photos several times a week that include shooting tips and thoughts.

Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, on California's Central Coast, with their three Newfoundland dogs, four cats, and a mixed terrier.