Are You Ready for the Fourth? Ten Tips for Fireworks Photography

by Shane Srogi

1: Bring a tripod (and a remote)
2: Set to Manual Exposure Mode
3: Set the camera to Shutter Speed at 1 second to start – explore slower shutter speeds for interesting effects
4: Set Aperture for f/8 – try f/5.6 for larger streaks or f/11 for more depth of field
5: Set ISO to 100 or 200
6: Use Manual Focus – Auto focus has trouble in low light and will lose focus against the dark sky
7: The exposure meter may be of little help – the combination of the dark sky and number of fireworks will change the reading. Overexposed the sky will be too light – Under and the fireworks won’t be very bright
8: Pick your vantage point – down wind from smoke and your view will be obscured*
9: Shoot vertical and horizontal shots
10: Tell the story. It’s not just about fireworks its about a celebration, gathering and location

*Note: I had planned to Photograph the Space Needle for New Years 2000. They turn the Needle into a giant roman candle, making it the launching platform. Because of security concerns the area close to the display was closed. I picked a new location on the fly, it was downwind. The fireworks started and 15 seconds later the Needle was obscured in smoke.

Bonus: Play and have fun! You can get some interesting multiple exposures by using bulb mode and a black piece of cardboard to cover the lens. The cardboard becomes your shutter. Try a long “exposure” to show movement then a short one for a dramatic burst.

Photograph by Shane Srogi