Photographing Fireworks this Independence Day Weekend

Firework dissplay reflecting off of the glass of a buildings windows; photograph by Landscape and Nature photographer Melissa FagueThe 4th of July weekend has arrived and its time to celebrate and watch the firework displays. That also means cool pics! Everyone can create them, all you need are fireworks, a camera, and a little bit of planning and preparation.

The Place

Find out where your local firework displays are going to happen and arrive early to scope out the area. There is going to be a lot of people, children and possibly pets moving around or seated near you; so you want to make sure that the other spectators and your gear will be safe during the event. I personally pick a location where I can create broad landscape views, close-ups (with my telephoto lens)  and offers the potential for foreground elements like spectators; so I usually go to the back of the crowd. Secondly, pick a spot upwind from the firework display launch site, once the show begins there will be a lot of smoke in the scene. If you set up downwind from the firework display you’ll be battling smoke of the scene and soot on your lens the whole time.  Fireworks 2, landscape photograph of building and firework bursts captured by landscape and nature photographer Melissa FgaueThe Gear

Capturing fireworks can be accomplished by almost every camera, the trick is to have the camera as steady as possible. Shooting fireworks is hard to do hand held, so I recommend a tripod or a solid stationary prop. I also recommend using a cable release or remote trigger, the less you touch the camera the better your photographs will be. Hand held shooting is possible but your ISO setting will need to be high as well as your shutter speed; you’ll be running the risk of noise in your image.

Image Variety

Capturing fireworks is cool but honestly, there is just so many firework bursts against a black sky that can be seen before it becomes boring in photography. So when I am out photographing fireworks displays I like to have a little variety of views with my images. Scouting locations early offers versatility to your photos for a nice photo series of the events at different perspectives.  This past year I went the Riverfront in Wilmington Delaware, it is a really tight location in the city with a large crowd and buildings. So I chose to incorporate the buildings and the people into my photographs; doing this also helps show scale, size of the firework bursts, for the viewers of the photographs.

Close-up of Firework bursts, captured by landscape and nature photographer Melissa FagueAnticipate

When you are shooting the firework display early your settings will be easy to control and will more than likely remain the same through most of the show. But be mindful of the brightness of the fireworks, the colors will burn differently, especially blue colored fireworks. White and green colored fireworks will be the brightest and require less exposure time; blues may require you to exposure a little longer than any other color because it is the darkest hue. If you look at the image above you’ll see a variety of colors; you’ll see that the blue doesn’t appear nearly as bright as all the other colors. As the mortars climb through the air you should be able to judge which color it will be in order to calculate your exposure time for the burst.

Manual Focus and Vibration Controls

Autofocus is great except when you are shooting moving subjects at night. When you are photographing moving subjects at night the autofocus tends to get confused on the focal point of the scene; this increases your risk of blurry photographs. Its recommended to turn your autofocus off and set your focus to infinity.

Vibration control is not needed if you are shooting with your camera on a tripod or steady surface. I recommend turning the setting off; if it is left on you may get a slight blur from the function’s motor in the lens.

Finally, have fun and enjoy the event for yourself.

Quick Tip Rundown For Photographing Fireworks

  • Pick a location early
  • Be Upwind or to the side of the launch site so the smoke and soot doesn’t disrupt you or your shots
  • Use a tripod or stable surface
  • Use a cable release or wireless remote to trigger the shutter.
  • Turn on Long Exposure Noise Reduction (check your manual).
  • Shoot the highest quality file you can, NEF (RAW) is ideal.
  • Set the camera to a low ISO, such as 100 or 200.
  • Turn off the autofocus, manually focus your lens at infinity.
  • A good starting point for aperture is f/11.
  • Set the camera to Bulb (B), this will allow you to keep the shutter open as long as you want. Play around with the duration that shutter is open but exposing for the entire fireworks burst is usually best.
  • Have fun!

Moon over Pagoda with Fireworks by landscape and nature photographer Melissa Fague

Share with me! I would really like to see your results from your firework displays this year. To share your experiences, pingback to this article by copying and pasting this link to your post:  FIREWORKS 2016

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a safe and happy holiday weekend!


About the Author and Photographer:

MeMelissa Fague is an emerging nature and landscape photographer from Bear, Delaware USA. In just a few short years her work has been published over two dozen times and she has won multiple national and international awards for her beautiful photographs. Melissa is passionate about the art of photography and nature. Exploring areas and creating photographs is her form of stress relief and art therapy, but she also loves to share her visions so that others can enjoy. All of Melissa’s nature and landscape photographs are available for purchase, visit Pi Photography and Fine Art.

Join our VIP List for exclusive offer, notification for upcoming events and more. To read Melissa’s full story on how she became a nature and landscape photographer please visit: In the Beginning.