How I shoot fireworks

I thought this would be a good post to re-run since I probably won’t get a new one up before the fireworks tomorrow. It was originally published on July 26, 2013 and I’m sure there are a lot of people who have not seen it yet. Enjoy…


Okay – So I’m a little late with this one. We went to what was unfortunately a rather disappointing fireworks show at the Stockton waterfront on the fourth. It wasn’t even good enough for me to believe that there were any decent images and I kept putting off processing. The display may have been disappointing, but I did get some decent images.

How I did it

Before the show started I set my camera up on a tripod and set it for an 8 second exposure time at f/11. The ISO was set at 100. This was to ensure the sharpest image possible in the dark. Eight seconds was a judgement call, a guess. A pretty good one too. I didn’t need to adjust it later.

A small aperture is simply to ensure the important part of the shot, the blast of the fireworks, is in focus. Auto-focus is pretty much useless in the dark and manual focus can’t be done quickly enough to re-adjust for each shot. I use f/11, small enough to get the required depth, but large enough to allow plenty of light. I manually focus at the beginning of the show. Most of the fireworks will be in the same general spot and f/l1 should be a small enough aperture to keep a good range of focus.

A wide lens is also a must. Not super wide, but wide enough to ensure you get everything you want. The goal is to set the camera before the fireworks begin and then not touch it, except to focus at the beginning. I used a 18-135mm zoom set to 38mm.

Lastly, I used a remote release to fire the shutter. Just watch and click.

Darren Rowse has a great article on shooting fireworks over at Digital Photography School which will give you a more general idea on shooting technique.

Do you have some suggestions on shooting fireworks? Leave a note in the comments.

Fireworks with the Stockton Arena