How to Photograph Fireworks

With November 5th and Bonfire Night almost with us I will share with you my tips for how to photograph fireworks so you are ready to capture the annual festivities.

Bonfire Night is a British institution but isn’t the only place you’ll find fireworks displays. Nowadays fireworks are used for celebrations at all times of the year and for different events around the world.

Like most forms of long exposure photography, taking photographs of fireworks is haphazard. Lots of experimentation is needed to work out what works best for you and your equipment. The great thing about digital photography though is the ability to see straight away what you’ve taken. This means you can adjust your settings to make improvements as you go along.

Here are a few of my tips for getting started with firework photography.

Firework Photography Equipment
  • You will need a sturdy tripod. Your subject will be moving and with the long exposures needed hand-holding your camera will add unwanted blur.  If you haven’t got a tripod find somewhere safe you can wedge the camera still.
  • A camera with manual mode or at least one where you can select the shutter speed.
  • A cable release is useful.  This will stop camera shake but you can get away with pressing the shutter manually, as long as you are careful.
Firework Photography Locations

The best place to get lots of fireworks together in a safe environment is at an organised display.  I try to step back away from any crowds as my tripod can be a trip hazzard for people wandering around in the dark looking at the sky.  You will be pointing the camera above the heads of the crowd anyway so you don’t need a front row spot.

Camera Settings

Settings will vary from camera to camera. Most organised displays are held when it’s completely dark and there is no light left in the sky so the background light will be fairly constant.  What will change though is the brightness of the fireworks, particularly during bursts of activity.  I usually set my camera ISO at either 200 or 400 to get the best image quality and adjust the aperture up and down to get the right exposure.  I will also use a shutter speed of 2 to 6 seconds to capture plenty of movement.


I’m not a big fan of too much digital manipulation of my pictures so most of my firework shots are more or less as they came out of the camera. I do like to crop my pictures to get the best composition and to crop out too much darkness.  You don’t always know where fireworks are going to explode so you can’t get things lined up in the viewfinder beforehand.

The other thing I do edit is the blackness.  As firework displays progress you get more and more smoke in the sky, this can make the pictures look washed out so I tweak levels to make the black areas really crisp.

Visit the link below to see a selection of fireworks photos i have taken at a number of events.

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