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How to take a good Fireworks Pictures

Updated on October 14, 2011
Fireworks at Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang
Fireworks at Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang

The main challenge in fireworks photography is the composition rather than the exposure. As always, planning ahead is the key. Get there early and check with the organizer as well as the person who is in charge of fireworks the actual time frame, location and direction of fireworks will be lunched and the heights at which they’re likely to explode. Choose a more distant vantage place where you can shoot the fireworks from a “level” view rather than having to point your camera directly upwards. Make sure you position your tripod so that you’ll avoid streetlights and people walking into the frame, and more importantly, walking into you and your gear. Timing’s still important, even with long exposures, and don’t be afraid to crop the image to tighten up composition later.

Essential gear for fireworks photography

Camera – Preferred any basic DSLR
Lens – Any lens or kit lens, but preferred wide angle lens, wide angle lens allowed us to capture more scenes included surrounding buildings.
Tripod – You need a steady tripod to minimize camera shake
Cable release – it is a must if you plan to use your camera “B” or Bulb setting to record fireworks.
Fully charged batteries – need extra back-up batteries.
Memory cards – need extra memory cards.
Torch – In addition to helping you find your way around in the dark, and helping you to check your camera setting in the dark.

1. Be ready for action

Check your camera bag and ensure that all essential gears are in your camera bag.
Take plenty of blank memory cards and charged batteries, now is the time to invest in a spare one for your camera as long exposures and cold temperatures place greater energy demands on them. Make sure you take a small torch as well, invaluable for helping you to quickly adjust camera setting and spotting dropped lens caps!

To successfully shoot fireworks you need a tripod and cable release to minimize camera shake.
To successfully shoot fireworks you need a tripod and cable release to minimize camera shake.

2. Keep it steady and pre-focus

Mount your camera on a sturdy tripod, you'll be using long exposure times. Use a cable release or remote release to trip the shutter to ensure you’re not creating camera shake or select the shortest self-timer option your camera offers. Switch to manual focus and focus at infinity, you won’t need to adjust this during the display.

3. Get the exposure right at the start

Don’t rely on your camera to get the exposure right, the combination of dark sky and bright fireworks can play havoc with auto exposure modes. Instead, select manual exposure mode, set the ISO to 100 and the aperture between f/8 and f/16. If you opt for ISO200 instead, set the aperture between f/11 and f/22.

Select "B" (Bulb) mode for long exposures.
Select "B" (Bulb) mode for long exposures.

4. Experiment with shutter speeds

There is no definitive shutter speed for capturing fireworks, we’ve seen successful shots made at one second, 30 second and beyond. Start with an exposure of 10 seconds and adjust accordingly after you’ve check the LCD. Used your camera’s Bulb(B) setting and hold the shutter open (using cable release) for exposures longer than 30 seconds.

5. Get the best quality pictures

When shooting fireworks, we’d recommend shooting RAW files rather than jpegs as, with careful processing (and a good lens), you’ll get the best quality possible from your camera. White balance inaccuracies can be rectified and exposure can be refined to produce beautiful dark skies and explosions fizzing with color.
Keep the ISO as low as possible to minimize noise and turn ON noise reduction for long exposures.


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    • calvincho profile image

      calvincho 6 years ago from George Town

      very good tips

    • GT Ooi profile image

      GT Ooi 6 years ago from Penang, Malaysia

      Interesting hobby, will learn from you once I pick up this hobby

    • joriechew profile image

      joriechew 6 years ago

      Will get the camera ready for this coming New Year Eve. Thanks for the insight.

    • idex231 profile image

      idex231 6 years ago from MY

      Thanks for the tips. Will remember those before i go for my next fireworks event!

    • doubleH profile image

      doubleH 6 years ago from Singapore

      ghiblipg, still got 3 months time, let's go together.

    • doubleH profile image

      doubleH 6 years ago from Singapore

      beginners-dslr your are right, shoot it right at the first time better than photoshop later

    • My Footprints profile image

      My Footprints 6 years ago from MY

      Very good pointers for would be shutter bugs attempting to take fireworks shots.

    • profile image

      ghiblipg 6 years ago

      let's do it again coming 2012 =)

    • beginners-dslr profile image

      beginners-dslr 6 years ago from Malaysia

      Thanks for sharing the great tips! One more tips that maybe useful, would be to watch out for distracting background/foreground, such as tree, building, cable.. etc. These subject may not be obvious to naked human eyes, but will show up in the final image (due to the long exposure) which is quite distracting & annoying (sometime totally ruining a great shot). Voted up!

    • HONEYSTAR profile image

      HONEYSTAR 6 years ago from Malaysia

      good info sharing..thanks.

    • klyyong profile image

      klyyong 6 years ago

      Great tips, thanks.