How to Photograph Fireworks

Fireworks at Chicago's Navy Pier.
Fireworks at Chicago’s Navy Pier. Nikon D810 with 28-300mm Nikkor lens. 3 s f/8 ISO 100

It’s July, and that means many of us in the USA will be able to watch fireworks demonstrations. If you’ve never photographed fireworks before, you don’t want to have to troubleshoot camera settings in the dark. Most fireworks displays are under 30 minutes in duration, so you’ll want to be prepared! Here are my tips for photographing fireworks displays:

My Tips for Photographing Fireworks
  • Use a tripod and a cable (remote) release cord or infrared remote to trigger your camera. This will prevent camera shake.
  • Pre-focus your camera. It’s really hard to use autofocus in the dark, and fireworks happen quickly. If you know where the fireworks will be launched from, try focusing on that point when it’s still light. Alternatively, you can try focusing on the fireworks early in the show. Once your camera is focused, set the camera to manual focus. This will allow you to capture pictures in the dark, even if your camera is set to focus priority release mode.
  • Use Manual Exposure.  In the dark, your camera won’t be able to meter properly, so set a manual exposure. The key to good fireworks shots is to use an exposure of several seconds. Start with a 3-second exposure at f/8 and ISO 200. Don’t use auto ISO or program exposure modes. You can vary it from there, but as long as you’re close you can fix minor flaws in post-processing.
  • Set White Balance Manually. I set mine to 3450° K and got good results.
  • Post-process to perfection. If you capture your images in RAW format, it’s easy to make high-quality adjustments to color and contrast. In Adobe Lightroom, try using the Dehaze slider located in the Effects Panel to add contrast to dark skies.
Master the art of night sky photography with the complete guide by Jason P. Odell

For even more tips on capturing digital images at night, be sure to check out my printable eBook, The Night Sky Photography Handbook. 



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