How to Photograph Fireworks

Post by TWiP Contributor: Nate Donovan

As the years go by I never get tired of watching and photographing fireworks.  As the 4th of July approaches, this is a great opportunity to see how simple photographing fireworks can be.  Anyone can take firework photos like a pro, but like most photographic situations, we just need the right recipe.

ISO: 100-200 – less noise/grain is always good for a cleaner photograph.

Shutter Speed:  Bulb – here is your chance to finally use Bulb.  What is the Bulb shutter speed?  Simply, the shutter stays open as long as the shutter release button remains depressed.  Rotate your shutter speed dial until you see “Bulb” or “B”.  Using a cable release/remote is a must with Bulb.

Aperture: f/22 – you want a small aperture to allow your shutter to be open for a longer period of time.

Focus: Manual set to Infinity – Auto-focus just doesn't work very well in this situation.  Practice setting your focus to Infinity ahead of time, you don't want to be out of focus and monkeying around with your setting in the dark.

Focal Length:  It just depends on how far away you are.  I would bring a couple of lenses that will cover 24mm-200mm.

Accessories:  Tripod, Cable Release/Remote, and a lens hood for your lens.  You may end up shooting from an area where you have building/street/car lights around you, the lens hood will help reduce any extra light coming into your lens.

How to shoot: Setup your camera aiming to where the fireworks will be high in the sky.  Shoot a little wide so you don't crop out too much, but be prepared to adjust your zoom.  Pay attention to where the fireworks are being shot from, you will see a flare shoot up before the firework explodes.  Once you see this flair, press and hold your cable release/remote until after the firework has exploded and flamed out.  This will give you similar result like the samples in this post.  Most firework shows have a big finale, this will be a great opportunity for an exposure of over 30 seconds.

Once you have this down you will be well on your way to some fun photographs!


  1. Position the camera orthogonal to any breeze/wind so the smoke blows out of the frame.