ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Photographing Fireworks

Updated on August 22, 2010

There are two ways of photographing fireworks: with a time exposure, and with an instantaneous exposure.

If the camera is set up on a tripod and the shutter is left open, the light of each firework will register on the film from start to finish. The shutter can be closed after a single firework has gone off, or left open to register the pattern left by several. This technique is also effective for photographing the lightning flashes in the course of a thunderstorm after dark.

The most effective way of collecting a number of firework patterns over a period of time is to close the shutter after each principal event and open it just before the next. This prevents the picture from being spoiled by registering minor fireworks and casual light sources. If this method is adopted, the shutter should be operated by a very long cable release so that the operator's arm can rest; waiting for several minutes with the finger at the ready on the shutter release can be very tiring.

Photo by Daniela Sanchez
Photo by Daniela Sanchez

Instantaneous Exposure

Short shutter exposures are only possible when the display produces a great volume of light that lasts for some seconds. At such times, very effective pictures can be made of the faces of the spectators or of silhouettes against the light of fireworks or bonfires. This type of subject calls for the maximum speed that can be obtained by combining large lens apertures with high speed pan films, and processing that puts film speed before every other consideration.

Using a Flash

Flash can be used to improve firework pictures. The use of flash bulbs or electronic flash to light up people in the immediate foreground calls for double exposure technique. The most effective method is to set the camera on a tripod, focus the lens on the foreground, and stop down so far that the picture will be very much under-exposed. This exposure must be made in between fireworks or the trails will be blurred. Open flash is used to save having to reset the shutter for the fireworks.

After making the first exposure at the best moment for recording an interesting foreground, the shutter is closed, the lens refocused on infinity, and the firework trails are taken in the normal way by opening the shutter on B. The resulting picture will show the fireworks exploding in the sky and reproduce enough of the foreground (e.g., the backs of spectators) to give more depth and interest than would normally appear.

Sensitized Material

For all work of this type only the fastest panchromatic films are of any use- particularly as the subjects are largely red, which would not come out on an orthochromatic film.

Most color materials are fast enough to record the colored patterns of the fireworks, and the results are frequently enchanting. Here, too, it is worthwhile experimenting with flash to record the foreground objects.

When tracing the fireworks upon the film, using a time exposure, an aperture of f8 with a film of speed 32 ASA would normally be suitable.

When examining the results, it is as well to remember that this type of subject always gives a disappointing looking negative in black-and-white. The only reliable way of judging whether the negative is worth printing is to print it.

Most firework negatives should be printed on a hard, glossy or luster surfaced paper so that every trail or spark appears as white as possible.

For those who enjoy using photo tints, firework prints, and lantern slides, offer plenty of scope and the effects have at least a pleasing novelty that even the most hardened purist would hesitate to condemn.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Destrier profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Rural Australia

      You should be able to. Play around with it, unlike film you can experiment without it costing anything. Except for the fireworks of course :D

    • krissalus profile image


      8 years ago

      This was very interesting to read, though I'm wondering if you can get similar results by using a digital camera with manual aperture settings rather than one that uses film. This is great, though. Thanks for sharing!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)