Shooting Fireworks Displays

Well, it’s that time of year again.  In the US, the Fourth of July holiday will bring out the questions of how to take pictures of fireworks.

The first thing to consider is a location to shoot from.  Watching fireworks is fun from up close but, taking pictures might mean staying a bit further away.  This is a picture where I wanted to get our local bridge into the picture so, I shot from well down the harbor near the Isles Yacht Club.  I wanted to get some foreground in the picture so, I used 1/8th of a second to make sure I stopped the boat in the reflection.  When you are shooting back like this, just set the focus to manual and infinity.  You don’t want your AF system to suddenly start hunting as the fireworks appear and disappear.

You can see that the actual trails of the fireworks are rather short.  You might want to get more of the ‘blossom’ .   Fireworks are self illuminating and what you see as a blossoming picture is actually a lot of individual burning pieces which your eye remembers as the trail.  So, we need to expose our digital sensor or film remember over a longer period of time to see the trail.  To start with, I use a shutter speed of 2 seconds at f8.0 unless I have some other reason like the foreground above.  Obviously, with that sort of shutter speed, you are going to need a good support, so, be sure to use a tripod.

Here are a couple of shots.  The one on the left was 2.5 seconds at f11 but, I didn’t manage to get the entire blossom in the frame.  The one on the right was 5 seconds at f11 but, while it was better centered, some of the lighter colors were blown out.  You can click on the image for a larger view.


Obviously, you can’t predict the height, elevation or color of a particular launch so, you are going to get a lot of unpredictable results.  That’s just a starting point though, I like unpredictable results so, after getting a few reasonable blossom shots, I start panning up and down to see what I find in the final image.  Here are a couple of those.


The one on the left, I call Alien Butterflies and the one on the right, the comet or ghost.  the one below is Warp 8, Mr. Sulu.


About birds n' bugs

Retired, living in SW Florida and spending my time at nature photography in my local area. I volunteer with a couple of local organizations to help my adopted home town. Travelling is now by airplane and car instead of a sailboat but happy anyway.
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1 Response to Shooting Fireworks Displays

  1. Tom Hughes says:

    Great shots! These photos make me want to get out there, this 4th, and shoot the fireworks! I will be Ocala and I hope there is some water to mirror the explosions. Thanks for the tips.

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