The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and you know what that means: fireworks! While you can easily enjoy the spectacle with your own eyes, why not capture the magic on camera?

Shooting fireworks can be challenging, but with the right settings and a bit of practice, you can capture stunning photos.

Here's a basic guide on how to shoot fireworks with a camera.


  • DSLR or mirrorless camera: These cameras offer more control over settings and better low-light performance.
  • Tripod: Essential for stability during long exposures.
  • Remote shutter release (optional): Helps avoid camera shake when triggering the shutter.
  • Wide-angle lens: Captures a broader scene.

Camera Settings:

  • Manual mode: Take full control of exposure settings.
  • ISO: Start with a low ISO (100 or 200) to minimize noise.
  • Aperture: Begin around f/8 or f/11 and adjust depending on the brightness of the fireworks.
  • Shutter speed: Use Bulb mode (B) or a long exposure setting (e.g., 5-10 seconds). Experiment to see what works best.
  • Focus: Switch to manual focus and set it to infinity (∞).
  • White balance: Auto white balance usually works well, or try "Daylight" or "Tungsten."
  • File format: Shoot in RAW for maximum flexibility in post-processing.

Shooting Tips:

  1. Arrive early: Scout the location and set up your tripod before the fireworks begin.
  2. Compose your shot: Include interesting foreground elements if possible.
  3. Timing: Open the shutter a moment before the firework explodes and close it when the trails fade.
  4. Experiment: Try different exposure settings and angles to find what you like best.
  5. Check your results: Review your photos on the LCD screen and adjust settings as needed.
  6. Multiple exposures: Capture a series of fireworks bursts in one frame by keeping the shutter open for longer.

Additional Tips

If you're looking to shoot stills this July 4th, here are some great tips for doing so. But if you've got a DSLR of the movie-shooting variety, there are some additional things to keep in mind:

  1. Bring your best zoom lens, preferably a stabilized one. Fast primes are great for narrative work, but you can't beat the flexibility that a zoom lens gives you for framing fireworks that are (hopefully) far away.
  2. Use a tripod -- if we're talking about huge airborne fireworks displays and not kids running around with sparklers, shooting video will make your lack of tripod even more obvious than shooting stills. With high ISO settings and a stabilized zoom lens, you could probably shoot decent firework stills handheld, but your video will really benefit from a 'pod (tri- or at least mono-).
  3. Lock down your shutter speed, ISO, and exposure settings. The sky will be changing brightness so rapidly and dramatically that any setting left on automatic will be constantly (and distractingly) trying to compensate. Just be careful not to expose for the night sky -- anticipate the brightness will rise dramatically, and then react accordingly.
  4. Be aware of rolling shutter artifacts -- in the case of fireworks, these would manifest as flashes that only cover part of the image. However, fireworks are often plentiful in number and far enough away that the sky changes brightness more gradually than would a flash from a nearby strobe light or camera flash.
  5. Consider using a neutral density filter: To reduce light and allow for longer exposures during bright displays.
  6. Remember, practice makes perfect! Don't be discouraged if your first few attempts aren't perfect. Keep experimenting, and you'll soon be capturing amazing firework photos.

Overall, the sensitivity of DSLRs like the 5D, 7D, T2i, and GH1 allow for great night shooting. For example, this was shot at f/2.8 and ISO2000:

If you're curious, here's a comparison of a 5D Mark II versus a Panasonic HDX-400. The HDX looks much cleaner, but of course it's also a $40,000 camera (albeit an older model):

Whether or not you break the DSLR out, happy July 4th! ((I figured this post might be handier if I posted it a day early...)) Anyone have any tips of their own for shooting fireworks?