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How to capture amazing firework pictures

Updated on November 9, 2014

Our journey to capture amazing firework shots

As amateur photographers, both my husband & I have always tried to capture a good firework picture, but unfortunately, we've never been able to.

Most firework pictures we took in the past always be blurry, smokey, washed-out, dark (under-exposure) & sometimes over-exposure and not as colorful & crisp as the other firework pictures we've seen from the professional photographers.

Couple months ago, we've challenged ourselves to capture a great firework picture from Sydney New Year's Eve 2010. We've decided to practice beforehand, so on Christmas Eve, we brought our camera & our tripod to capture the beautiful colorful firework in Sydney Darling Harbour.

Unfortunately, all firework pictures came out blurry (again) and washed-out.

But, we've learned our lessons and finally discovered several tips on how to capture great firework pictures. Tips which we applied during the Sydney NYE and we're pretty happy with the results.

The journey will not end here, we'll still be learning and as we go along in our firework shooting journey, more tips will be added here.

I hope all these tips below will help you to take the best fireworks pictures!

The mistakes we've made on our first firework shooting session

1. Auto-focus mode and high ISO level

Auto focus didn't allow us to set the shutter speed and high ISO level produced pictures with lots of noise.

The picture came out washed-out and grainy.

2. Exposure Time

We didn't understand about the exposure time at that time, so we shot at the wrong time. We were supposed to use the shutter button for few seconds in order to capture the full fireworks burst. As you can see on the picture on the right hand side, we shot it too early, hence, the fireworks hasn't burst yet.

3. Aperture Level

As we used auto-focus mode, high ISO level, and did not care about the aperture level, the picture came up too bright, even the dark sky looked too bright. And the fireworks color were washed-up.

4. The Location

We settled in the wrong spot. Even though we were able to capture the firework up in the sky, however, we couldn't get any good picture of firework at the water level. Because all we could capture was people's head.

Tips of capturing great firework pictures

Thankfully, we could learn from our mistakes. We've read our camera's manual and discovered the following tips & tricks which hopefully can help you capturing great firework pictures.

Nikon D7000
Nikon D7000

1. The Equipments

--- Camera ----

Obviously you'll need your camera.

We use Nikon D7000 to capture these firework pictures, currently you can also shoot great fireworks pictures using digital compact camera which has fireworks feature. The tricks are still the same, you need to secure the best possible spot & you must use your tripod.

Recommended Digital Compact Camera with Fireworks Features - Priced under $300

---Tripod---

Sturdy, strong tripod is essential. If you hold the camera in your hand, your hand may shake and it will shake the camera making it capturing a blurry shot. But if the camera is mounted in the tripod, the camera will stand still and make it possible to capture a sharp firework shot.

I use Manfrotto 190XPROB leg and Manfrotto 804RC2 tilt head for my fireworks shot and this tripod works like magic. You can read reviews about this tripod and the tips on how to choose the best tripod for your needs on my Tripod article.

Memory Card
Memory Card

--- Memory Card ---

Bring additional / spare memory card so you can capture as many firework shots as you want.

--- Battery & Spare Battery ---

Make sure your camera's battery is fully charged. No-one want to miss out the great shot or the firework finale shots because their camera's battery dies.

--- Torch or Flashlight ---

We found out that torch or flashlight is very handy in case you'll need to adjust your camera's setting in the darkness. Bring a small one so it's easy to carry. Or if you have a mobile phone which has a flashlight application, you can use it instead.

Nikon Cable Release
Nikon Cable Release

--- Cable release ---

To capture great firework shots, we'll need a sturdy hand to shot the image at the right shutter speed & time. Sometimes, we've found it quite difficult to keep the camera stand still (even though it's mounted in the tripod) as our hand maybe shaky and ended up with a blurry firework shot. Cable release is useful as you can easily press the button in the cable at the right shutter speed & exposure time, giving you the sharpest & best firework shots.

2. The Location

On our way to our first firework practice session, we saw more than 10 photographers already had their tripod & camera gear ready in the small section at the top of the Darling Harbour. We didn't realize that the location of shooting the firework is extremely important.

1. Arrive at the location early so you can choose the best location (the highest vantage point is recommended) & if there is water, choose the location where you can get the best view of the firework and the water (to capture the firework and its reflection on the water).

Check the surrounding area from that vantage point to ensure there is obstructions (tree, high building, etc) that will hinder you capturing great firework shots.

But you can also consider any building / scenery / landmark from your vantage point so your firework shot can stand out with this landmark building. For example: if you want to capture a great Sydney NYE firework, I suggest you capturing it from Mrs Macquaire chair area, in which you can get great shots of Opera House & Harbour Bridge.

2. Check the wind direction, so you won't get lots of smoke in your firework shots. All fireworks generate smoke, but you can minimise it by choosing the location in which the wind will go to the other direction from your vantage shooting point. We learnt about this tip the hard way, every time we shot the fireworks, the wind always went to our direction making our firework pictures full of smokes. And we're unable to capture any firework finale as the sky was full of smoke.

3. The Camera Setting

1. Turn off the flash & use manual mode. Shot in RAW, so you can easily adjust it later.

2. Set the camera at Bulb Mode (B)

If your camera don't have this function, you can easily put your finger in the shooting button and press it according to the shutter speed you want. For fireworks, the exposure time is between 2 - 5 seconds.

3. Shoot at the lowest ISO possible

As you shoot the firework in the dark (nighttime), you don't want the sky to be illuminated with light right? High ISO will produce image with high exposure, lots of light and usually a grainy image with lots of noise.

4. I usually use aperture of f/8-11 for ISO 100 and f/16 for ISO 200. But feel free to experiment with it. I usually start with f/16 ISO 200 at the start of the firework and when the multiple fireworks being shot to the sky, I reduce it to ISO 100 and f/11.

5. Press the shutter button before the first firework burst. Hold it for several second (usually 2 seconds) until the burst completes. Hold the shutter longer for multiple bursts (usually 5 seconds).

Video on Tips & Tricks for Fireworks Photography

This video below sums up all the important tips & tricks that we need to know on fireworks photography. Hope it will help you to produce the best fireworks shots for this year's fourth of July celebration!

Video Credit: MichaelTheMentor

How to edit washed-out fireworks pictures

for Nikon D7000 owners

Even though we're able to take good fireworks pictures, however, I have to admit that sometimes post-editing process will still be required. At the beginning of the firework show, we should be able to take great clear shots. However, as the sky begins to be filled with smokes & light, the firework's color begins to fade resulting in a washed-out firework shots.

If you take your pictures using Nikon D7000 and use the settings I recommended above, you can simply edit your raw picture using ViewNX2 software, which comes with your Nikon D7000 package bundle.

Editing your washed-out picture is extremely easy. You can simply adjust the exposure level, picture control and sharpness of the image.

Here are three steps on how to edit washed out picture using ViewNX2 Software:

  1. Open and edit the RAW file in ViewNX2.

  2. Reduce the exposure level to minus number. Drag the slider to minus number until you're happy with the darkness of your picture.

    By reducing the exposure level, it will also reduce the smoke in your picture

  3. Adjust the white balance. I usually use "Direct Sunlight" or "High Color Rendering" adjustment, but you can also drag the slider of the fine adjustment and tint color manually until you're happy with the color quality of your picture

  4. Adjust the sharpness of your picture.
  5. When you're happy with your firework picture, click "Convert Files" to save the file in jpef and tiff format.

  6. The result of post-editing:

How to capture amazing firework pictures was awarded Lens of the Day on July 3, 2011. I'm eternally grateful for the honor and will always try my best to update this lens with all-related firework photography tips & tricks.

I just updated this lens with simple instructions on how to edit your RAW washed-out firework pictures using ViewNX2.

Thank you for all the lovely comments and your visits. I hope through this lens, you were able to capture great fireworks shots on the 4th of July celebration!

Feel free to leave your comments here

Submit a Comment

  • geosum profile image

    geosum 4 years ago

    Nice lens. I have a fireworks setting on my camera. I'll try it next time.

  • kaposzta profile image

    kaposzta 4 years ago

    Excellent tips, I'll try them! :)

  • Essentially Ind profile image

    Essentially Ind 4 years ago

    Thank you for your suggestion, i'll try them out in firework festivals. :)

  • PaigSr profile image

    PaigSr 5 years ago from State of Confussion

    My son loves to see things blow up. I will be showing this one to him later today.

  • Rangoon House profile image

    AJ 5 years ago from Australia

    This is such a helpful and inspiration lens - your patience and persistence produced magnificent photographs. Blessings.

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    Terrific lens. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

  • menskincaretips profile image

    menskincaretips 5 years ago

    Wow! This is EXACTLY the info I was looking for, I plan to take pics of fireworks with my Nikon D7000 this New Years, thanks for the tips!

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    Some of the best fireworks I've ever seen were in Sydney for the turn the the millennium. Thank you for these fantastic tips!

  • JK Sterling profile image

    Jim Sterling 5 years ago from Franklin, Tennessee

    Thanks for the tips. Fireworks are a bit easier to catch than lightning shots but these tips help there too.

  • profile image

    kimmanleyort 6 years ago

    Wonderful tips for shooting fireworks! Added to my lens on summer photography tips. And thanks for your visit there.

  • profile image

    DEVIL00070 6 years ago

    nice tips.

  • SandyMertens profile image

    Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

    Congratulations on your LOTD! Thanks for the tips on creating great firework photos.

  • ProPhotos profile image

    ProPhotos 6 years ago

    This lens is awesome, as a photographer who has shot firework I know that is takes some practice! Very good resource for anyone wanting to learn the tricks of the trade.

  • Anthony Altorenna profile image

    Anthony Altorenna 6 years ago from Connecticut

    Great tips! I wish I found this lenses before this year's 4th of July celebration, but I'll be ready for next year!

  • sahilwaste profile image

    sahilwaste 6 years ago

    hiiiii, great lens..very helpful..thanks for all the info and congrats for lotD..

  • Pip Gerard profile image

    Pip Gerard 6 years ago

    what a brilliant lense! Belated congrats on your well deserved LOTD too!

  • Psycho-Gamer profile image

    MasterPsycho 6 years ago from Earth

    ok here is the thing....as an amateur photographer i have read a few books about photography and i have taken a few thousands of shots.....and i ve learned this....

    if you want to take great photos..forget the presetted and automated on camera features....always go manual....read the maual...again and again and again...learn you camera...so well so you can use it with your eyes closed...although compact camersas nowadays are highly sophisticated and advanced you will always get better results with an SLR-like or SLR cameras (although i use compact cameras pretty often and even pros use them as well and the results are great)....

    fireworks photos are really tricky....there is no repitition and you will alays have to be ready ...if you missed it..you can have it back...

    and something last......your tips are really great......the photos U think they are not that good they are......2. (Exposure Time) and 3. (Aperture Level) photos are very good...maybe 3 is a bit over exposed...but it can be fixed....they are good artistic photos......

    and do not delete any of ur photos until u get home and watch them and examine them carefully in an editing program....although a good photographer never needs an editing program....a photo is a moment of captured life....do not delete it..instead try to fix it...learn from ur mistakes and keep it for future reference....

    u ve done a great job

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Congrats on being Lens of the Day, well deserved!

  • GoAceNate LM profile image

    GoAceNate LM 6 years ago

    Great lens idea. I love what you've done here. No wonder this was lens of the day. Cheers!

  • profile image

    reasonablerobby 6 years ago

    Congrats on LOTD. Its really nice to read something that isn't too technical and geeky when it comes to digital photography. I'm going to follow your advice for sure.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Great tips for photographers. Congrats on LOTD

  • Ilonagarden profile image

    Ilona E 6 years ago from Ohio

    great LOTD! always wondered how people got those sharp colorful shots.

  • profile image

    nycelady13 6 years ago

    Great stuff posted on your lens..Thanks for sharing those infos.

  • profile image

    thebabyshop 6 years ago

    Congratulations on LOTD, happy 4th of July! Thanks for these tips, I will certainly use these down the line.

  • daedrea lm profile image

    daedrea lm 6 years ago

    great lense...congrats

  • profile image

    CalamariFritti 6 years ago

    great lens, I'll use these tips tonight!

  • seanjennin profile image

    seanjennin 6 years ago

    Cool, great photos...

  • littlelotus profile image

    littlelotus 6 years ago

    congratulations..... well deserved ;):)

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Thank you for the advice!

  • profile image

    love4rocks 6 years ago

    Thanks for all the great tips. Congrats on the deserved LotD.

  • PNWtravels profile image

    Vicki Green 6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

    Great tips for getting good fireworks photos. Congratulations on LOTD!

  • LikinTrikin LM profile image

    LikinTrikin LM 6 years ago

    Congratulations to you on a well deserved LotD. I have not yet been able to capture any good firework pics but with your advice I will give it another shot. Thanks for the great info.

  • profile image

    wayne_luvinlife 6 years ago

    Thanks for the lenses...good info, looking for a new camera.

  • mbgphoto profile image

    Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

    Great tips...I'll use them tonight! Blessed.

  • profile image

    GetSillyProduct 6 years ago

    great video, especially the bulb and black foam trick, I never would have thought of that!

  • RawBill1 profile image

    Bill 6 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

    Congratulations on LOTD. I have not been to fireworks for quite a few years. I must be due to see some again soon. I have never tried taking photos of them. I have videoed them though and it has looked dull.

  • WT1 profile image

    WT1 6 years ago

    Congratulations on being named Lens of the Day and thanks for the GREAT tips. I have one question - about night photography in general - my camera has a very small auxiliary light on it and, therefore, it doesn't illuminate night time photographs very well. My question is: would a brighter, free-standing light/lamp work or would I need to get one made specifically for my camera?

  • newbizmau profile image

    Guided Abundance 6 years ago from Mobile, AL

    Nice I'm going to try some of these tips next time. I thought it couldn't be done without having the proper camera.

  • LakeMom profile image

    LakeMom 6 years ago

    Great advice! Congrats on Lens of the Day!

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Just in time !!! I went to a fireworks display last night and used my iPhone - not such good pics though!! Tonight (4th of July) I will use my Canon PowerShot with a tripod and use all your tips! Here's to better photos - and thanks so much! Happy 4th of July!!! Great lens!

  • GonnaFly profile image

    Jeanette 6 years ago from Australia

    What great tips! I'm going to have to look out for fireworks now :-) I'll be adding this lens to my best photography tips lens. Thanks.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Congratulations on your Lens of the Day

  • Eighteen18 profile image

    Eighteen18 6 years ago

    I love fireworks... not sure I can afford such an expensive camera though!

  • profile image

    ratul1987 6 years ago

    wow, really its very nice theme.i like it.nice to met u.

  • profile image

    noland1977 6 years ago

    Very cool. I never would have thought about the tips on using a tripod!

  • profile image

    JennySui 6 years ago

    Wonderful tips to capture fireworks. Congrats on LOTD!

  • profile image

    breagen 6 years ago

    Great tips for having a successful 4th!

  • profile image

    happynutritionist 6 years ago

    Oh how I wish I had this the other night...I only had my phone camera...it does have some adjustments, but I didn't know what I was doing....my son is so much better at these things than I am, but now that I have your tips, things should get better:-) Happy 4th and congrats on the LOTD

  • youthministry profile image

    Paul Turner 6 years ago from Birmingham, Al.

    Well done. it all begins with the camera doesn't it? One day I will invest in a good one.

  • ZenandChic profile image

    Patricia 6 years ago

    Great tips! Blessed this lens!

  • profile image

    Peterakie 6 years ago

    Great tips thanks. Can't wait to try them out thanks.

  • profile image

    dfishbac 6 years ago

    Congrats on your LOTD! Great tips! I've never tried to capture fireworks but I enjoyed reading your suggestions.

  • profile image

    RichmondBlogs 6 years ago

    You did an amazing job on this lens! Congrats on LOTD/

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Congratulations! Hopefully the pictures I take tonight will look half as good as yours.

  • SydneyH LM profile image

    SydneyH LM 6 years ago

    Good tipis. Thanks!

  • Retro Loco profile image

    Vicki 6 years ago from USA

    Congratulations on LOTD!! Your firework pictures are beautiful -- some of them look like giant flowers in the sky or neon lights. Thank you for sharing your tips on photographing fireworks! I didn't realize there were digital cameras with a fireworks feature....mine probably has it, but I haven't read the owner's manual! I'm going to study your tips and give this a try....and maybe read my camera manual! ;-)

  • profile image

    GrowWear 6 years ago

    Have been trying to get some good fireworks images all weekend. Tonight's my last chance. Thank you for the tips. And congratulations for LOTD. :)

  • delia-delia profile image

    Delia 6 years ago

    Great information here!

  • kougar lm profile image

    kougar lm 6 years ago

    Very nice lens. Great tips, thank-you.

  • sisbrown34 lm profile image

    sisbrown34 lm 6 years ago

    great! can't wait to try it!

  • junecampbell profile image

    June Campbell 6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

    These are excellent tips for the amateur photographer (like me). Thanks so much.

  • CherylsArt profile image

    Cheryl Paton 6 years ago from West Virginia

    Good tips for taking pics of fireworks, many I had not thought of. Thanks. : )

  • dara60 lm profile image

    dara60 lm 6 years ago

    Thanks Deyani for such great lens. I was looking for something like that for a while, your a star!

  • NightMagic profile image

    NightMagic 6 years ago

    Thanks for the instructions. I took some pictures of our fireworks on July 1st this year & deleted them the minute I saw how they turned out.

  • alkapuri profile image

    alkapuri 6 years ago

    nice one.

  • profile image

    Natural_Skin_Care 6 years ago

    Thanks for the tips. Maybe this year I can get something that doesn't look like a red blur.

  • profile image

    ideadesigns 6 years ago

    Very cool! I needed to know how to take better fireworks pictures. I've tried it before on an older fuji with decent results and longer exposures. Your tips and the video are very helpful thanks!

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Lots of good information, thanks!

  • OhMe profile image

    Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

    Thanks for the info. I wish that you had been at our Freedom Fest taking pictures of our Fireworks.

  • ludyshubs profile image

    ludyshubs 6 years ago

    Very helpful lens. Thank you.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Great tips. I'll have to check the settings on my camera. I think it will do all that. Congrats on LotD

  • profile image

    runninragged 6 years ago

    Very beautiful shots and useful tips!

  • retta719 profile image

    Loretta 6 years ago from United States

    I'm going to try to get good fireworks pictures from our trip to Fort Monroe this weekend.

  • jptanabe profile image

    Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

    Great tips - I've never succeeded in getting a photo of fireworks. Maybe this year!

  • TenerifeLowcost profile image

    TenerifeLowcost 6 years ago

    Fireworks are one of my favourite things and I have never been able to capture them properly - hopefully with your advice I can make it happen next time :) Congrats on LOTD

  • Faye Rutledge profile image

    Faye Rutledge 6 years ago from Concord VA

    Thanks for the great tips! Congratulations on LotD!! Happy July 4th!

  • HtCares profile image

    HtCares 6 years ago

    I love all the great tips in this lens... thanks for sharing. Congratulations on LOTD.

  • katiecolette profile image

    katiecolette 6 years ago

    I might just try your tips tonight :) Thank you- perfect 4th of July lens find!

  • SusanDeppner profile image

    Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

    Wow, great explanation! Thanks so much, and congratulations on your Lens of the Day!

  • Sensational Color profile image

    Kate Smith 6 years ago from Ashburn, VA

    This is a very helpful lens. I just shared with my Twitter followers so that we can all improve the way we capture the colors of fireworks. Thanks!

  • Mistalina profile image

    Mistalina 6 years ago

    Congratulations on LOTD! Your tips are very thorough.

  • pramodbisht profile image

    pramodbisht 6 years ago

    Congrats on LOTD!

    This is a very helpful lens to amateur photographers.

  • LisaAuch1 profile image

    Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

    this is indeed fantastic, by fluke I ended up taking some fantastic shots of fireworks, but did not understand how or what settings! makes sense now. and congratulations on a fantastic and very apporpriate LoTD for juy 4th

  • Diana Wenzel profile image

    Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

    Congrats on LOTD! An excellent guide to shooting successful and impressive fireworks images. Nicely done!

  • rob-hemphill profile image

    Rob Hemphill 6 years ago from Ireland

    This is a very helpful lens to those of us enthusiastic amateur photographers. Great tips, thanks for the info, and congrats on LOTD.

  • Hedremp profile image

    Sandra Wilson 6 years ago from Wilson Education Resource Centre

    great lesson - thanks!

  • puzzlerpaige profile image

    puzzlerpaige 6 years ago

    I've always had the same problems when trying to take pictures of fireworks. I have a point and shoot and I don't know if it has a fireworks setting, but I'm going to go look. Congrats on LOTD!

  • profile image

    healthandsick 6 years ago

    #eaaa great achievement for this lens..

  • profile image

    gloria1969 6 years ago

    ohh so nice my friend, i would like to know more on Photography

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    a remote shutter release is also very helpful. You don't have to press the button on the camera which can cause even a small movement that can blur the photos. These are good tips. Thank you.

  • StevenCousley profile image

    Steven Cousley 6 years ago from Young, NSW, Australia

    Great tips here. I love taking photos but I'm a very raw beginner. Night shots are always a challenge.

  • profile image

    golfspice 6 years ago

    Very good lens - I am no photographer (enthusiastic amateur at best), but do know that you need to understand how to take photos when dark. It's a pity so many people waste their time taking snapshots at night that will never work.

  • lynnrdavis profile image

    lynnrdavis 6 years ago

    Very nice! Your lens is awesome!

  • BrahmM profile image

    BrahmM 6 years ago

    Great lens and great tips, will definitely try this!

  • Bercton1 profile image

    Bercton1 6 years ago

    Brilliant lens, I am very passionate about photography topics and cameras. Congratulation on LOTD!

  • SheilaVine LM profile image

    SheilaVine LM 6 years ago

    Great Lens

  • profile image

    johanmark 6 years ago

    I like your lens, you worked a lot because the quality of your lens is very high. Congratulations!

  • profile image

    Ruthi 6 years ago

    Perfect Lens of the Day for Independence Day in the USA! Enjoyed your photos, especially the fireworks over the bridge.

  • twilson17 profile image

    twilson17 6 years ago

    congratulations on lens of the day

  • profile image

    WeirdStuff 6 years ago

    Thanks for help. Many people think that with an expensive camera in hand, they are top-photographers without any training and studying!