Tutorial: How to take pictures of fireworks for July 4 (or any celebration about that)



It is very important that once you are happy with your composition and get your “scene” image, you will not move or accidentally kick your tripod.

A tripod

Whatever the camera does, good firework photography requires a steady tripod because you will use long exposure to capture patterns effectively. You can’t take decent fireworks without a tripod because you’ll be using long shutter speeds. They will not work if your camera moves while you are taking photos. I used a Hasselblad H6D100C with a collection of lenses and a medium format camera to hold the brute tightly, I reached out to Vanguard UK who sent me two Alta Pro 2+ tripodOne with a 3 way pan head, the other with a video head while I was filming the display which worked great.

Planning your shots before the show starts will help you make sure you know what the baseline scene will look like when the fireworks start to pop.

Remote release

For the same reason you need a tripod, you need a remote shutter release to keep your camera completely still. Pressing the button will move your camera and blur the shots, despite what you might think. If you do not have a shutter release, you can use a 2 second delay as a last resort, but you must miss photos using this option.


Set your camera manual. This is very important to get a good shot. You need to set up your focus in advance. Simply put, you can set your lens for fireworks indefinitely, but it depends on the location. If you are close to a building and you want to focus on them, it is best to make decisions based on the surroundings. If you try to use autofocus, it can ‘prey’ and you will miss the photos because it tries to focus on something in the dark.

Camera settings

  • Shutter Speed ​​- Bulb mode is going to be your best friend. With your remote release, you can keep the shutter open as long as the fireworks explode. I recommend exposure time between 8 – 15 seconds for a large display It can be long for a short show. Be aware, the more open your shutter is, the brighter the picture will be, so keep an eye on your aperture – adjust if necessary.

  • Hole – Once your settings for your pre-composed photo are done, it’s easy to set the aperture for the fireworks. Since the fireworks are very bright, I recommend dropping your aperture between 1.5 – 3 stops depending on how bright the display is.

  • ISO – You want to keep your ISO as low as possible to reduce ‘noise’ in your shots (100-200)

  • RAW – It’s important not to bother with the camera display image, it’s not a representation of what your finished image might be. For this reason, we recommend firing fireworks on RAW because the files are very forgiving. While it’s good to achieve ‘correct’ exposure on camera, the ability to post products to RAW files increases your chances of getting the desired shot.

Production next

“It’s important not to make a fuss about the camera display image, it’s not a representation of what your finished image might look like because you have to process your files” Remember the image I asked you to take when setting up the composition? Here you use it. Because the fireworks are very bright, to maintain the integrity of the highlight, the nozzle will darken if not completely black in some sections. Also city lights often turn off before the display.

You need to overlay the front of the pre-painted image on the under-exposed areas of the fireworks image. This can be done using Photoshop layers and selecting brightness masks where you brush (or outside) the aspects of the image you want or do not want in each layer.

Further adjustments can be made to specific areas of each level by using very specific curves and layers again using illuminated masks. The resulting image is more balanced than single exposure. Including highlight details from both saved shadow details and exposure sets.

Animal comfort

It is also worth mentioning that the camera and settings are important, as is the comfort of the animal. Be sure to pack a chair, jacket, food, drinks and a flashlight so you can enjoy the experience even more. Overall it’s important to have fun, because if it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.

I hope this helps …

I believe photography teaches you how to see and feel life at a crucial moment and this is especially true when it comes to taking pictures of fireworks. Fireworks go off in seconds, but a great photograph can capture the moment for life. This in turn helps you to live your life with more vitality. These photographs bring people together so that we can feel connected, and bring joy to the lives of others.

This page has a complete archive of all my New Year’s pictures

Image Credit: All photographs provided by Stuart Marsden


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