Shooting Fireworks

by Josh Anon

To all of our American readers, happy 4th of July! When we think about the 4th of July, the first thing that comes to mind is that we get the day off. The second thing is fireworks! Fireworks are a lot of fun to see, but shooting them can be tricky!

To shoot fireworks, you need four things: a good location, a sturdy tripod, a cable release, and a dark card. Ideally, you should know where the fireworks will be so that you can visualize your shot ahead of time. Some safe assumptions are that if you're close to where the fireworks will fire from, bring a wide lens, and conversely, if you're far away, bring a standard lens.

Once you have a good location, place your camera on the tripod, set your camera to bulb mode, and connect the cable release. In terms of other settings, I'd recommend shooting at ISO 100 (you don't want to blow out the highlights in the fireworks and you want the least amount of noise possible in the sky) and f/8 (with a wide lens, that'll give you a fair bit in focus; you should also experiment a bit with different depths of field).


When the fireworks start blasting, what you will do is press your cable release so that it's holding the mirror up. Then, in between bursts, place the heavy card over the lens, blocking all light from entering. After a couple of bursts (depending on how big/bright they are--make sure to experiment with how long each exposure is), release the cable release and advance the frame.

Later on, when you import the images into Aperture, I'd recommend using the white balance, saturation, and highlight/shadow tools to enhance your photos. White balance matters because you will find some creative effects by playing with it in fireworks photos. Saturation will help bring out some of the color that can get lost in the bright fireworks (be careful not to over-saturate the photo), and shadow/highlight helps bring out any detail in the dark area.

Have fun shooting!


Jan Steinman
2007-07-15 20:47:16
Here is another example of this technique that I did 28 years ago. It's my best seller -- for one weekend each year!