Photo Tip Friday: Taking Better Firework Pictures

by Mary Denman

by Mary Denman

With July 4th celebrations fast approaching, it's time to learn how to take better firework photos!

It may seem difficult, but if know what to change on your camera, you can do this.

Let's get started!

Quick review: Re-familiarize yourself with the settings on your camera. 
This is from my Canon DSLR and most Point & Shoot cameras allow for some control of the settings.

M = Manual
Av= Aperture Value (f/stop)
Tv= Time Value (shutter speed)
P = Program Mode (you can control ISO from here)

A+ = Automatic

So what do you need to learn?

Think about the lighting conditions of fireworks shots and how that easily creates blurry or dark photos.

While the light of the fireworks is bright, the sky around them is usually very dark.

Shots turn out dark if they don't get enough light or blurry if you move while the shutter is open.

What tips do you need to help take better pics?

TIP 1) Learn how to control your ISO. 

ISO is the light sensitivity of the "film." You use 100 ISO for daylight or 1600 and higher in very dim situations. The higher you go, the less light you need. The photos will be a little bit grainier (depending on the quality of your camera), but playing with the ISO first will allow you to hand hold your camera and get good shots without all the blur.

HOW? Practice by putting your camera on the P Mode. This should allow you to change the ISO. Then, the camera will choose the Aperture and Shutter Speed for you. This is a great way to start getting clearer shots.

Comparison of faster or longer exposure with a high ISO of 6400

TIP 2) Leave the shutter open longer. This lets in more light. 

But how long depends on if you're hand holding your camera or not. Most people can't hand-hold a steady shot once you hit 1/30 - 1/50 of a second. If the time is slower than that, then you need a tripod. Or a flat surface to rest the camera on. 

HOW? Put your camera on Tv. This allows you to control the Time while the camera controls the ISO and Aperture for you.  

Shutter speed of 1-2 seconds

TIP 3) Remember that a faster exposure will stop the action more and a longer exposure will allow the light to be captured as it moves.

In this example, I left the shutter open for about 1-2 seconds while the little girl twirled her firecracker around. This is the technique people use to write with lights.

If you want the feel of movement, leave the shutter open longer. If you want to stop the action of your subject, then use a faster shutter speed.

Fireworks in the moonlight

TIP 4) Don't forget to take overall shots.

The moon was out and quite bright last year during the fireworks. 

We were sitting on top of our car enjoying the show with thousands people in that huge parking lot. So I zoomed out and took a great overall shot to remember the occasion.

Firework zoom by Mary Denman

TIP 5) Experiment.

For this shot, I zoomed at the same time I took the shot, creating the really interesting sharp lines of the fireworks. 

TIP 6) PRACTICE at home!! 
All you need is a dark room and a flashlight or candle. Well, maybe set your camera to the proper settings before you turn the main light out. Then, practice in limited lighting where the results don't matter as much. You can try ISO first, then Tv and if you get brave, go to Manual and set everything! 
HINT: Use the lowest Av or f/stop you can to let in the most light. 

Great balls of fire! 

So, play with your camera before you head out to enjoy the firework displays and learn what you can. 

Hope these tips help! 

Keep on clicking!


CELL PHONE USERS: I may have some exciting news.....I found an app that allows you to control your phone more like a DSLR camera!!  While I've only had the app for a couple of days, I think it's going to be good. I'll use it more fully over the next week to see if it warrants a full blown recommendation since you'll have to purchase it. I only want to recommend it if I feel it's worth the money for you. 

So far.....I'm impressed.  

BLOGGERS: The more you learn about photography, the more you can use your own work on your blog. I love being able to use my own photos. It's nice to share with others! 

TWEETABLE: Photo Tips for taking better firework shots (click to tweet)

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  1. Great tips! I love taking picture of fireworks and always love more tips to do it better. Thanks for sharing!! Stopping by from That Friday Blog Hop! Have a wonderful 4th of July!

    Alexis @

    1. I hope the tips help tomorrow.

      You have a great 4th and thanks for stopping by Alexis!

  2. There are going to be some spectacular photos after the fourth Im sure.
    Thanks Mary for stopping by to share your tips on #OMHGFF
    Have great 4th of July!!

    1. You're welcome Karren.

      Have a great weekend!

  3. Thanks for the tips!
    I hope you'll drop by and visit this week's Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) - it opens later today at