Whether you’re a budding photographer or a seasoned expert, learning how to photograph fireworks like a pro requires patience, experience, and a few handy tips.
In this guide, I’ll provide 26 tips for taking the best fireworks photographs ever, so let’s dig in.
Table of Contents
Fireworks Photography Tips Summary
- Stabilize with a sturdy tripod.
- Use a cable release or wireless remote to avoid camera shake.
- Activate Long Exposure Noise Reduction.
- Shoot in highest resolution, preferably RAW.
- Opt for low ISO around 200.
- Start with an aperture of f/11.
- Use Bulb (B) mode for shutter control; capture full bursts or multiple bursts in one shot.
- Disable autofocus; manually set focus to infinity.
- Scout location in advance for an unobstructed view.
- Factor in wind direction to minimize smoke interference.
- Add foreground elements for depth and context.
- Have extra batteries on hand for long exposures.
How to Photograph Fireworks Like a Pro
The best location for fireworks photos
There’s a lot to like about fireworks — they typically are accompanied by a celebration with friends and family, a day off work, and a stunning visual masterpiece.
So naturally, you’d want to photograph them for both sentimental and aesthetic reasons! And it all starts with picking the perfect location.
Many suburban families gather around with neighbors and watch the spectacle from their backyards, but don’t feel limited to a yard.
Some of the best locations to see and capture fireworks bursts include areas without obstructions, such as a rooftop bar, a vast lakeside property, or a local bridge or park.
Camera settings to use for pictures of fireworks
Adjusting your camera settings appropriately is critical in capturing shooting fireworks in action.
According to the pros at Nikon, the best aperture for fireworks is f/11.
So at least start there and experiment because mid-range apertures will produce the best results!
Using the bulb setting, if your camera has one, is preferred when photographing fireworks.
If you don’t, many photographers have different opinions here!
Some like to start between 3-5 seconds and others like to start longer and gradually reduce shutter speed.
I recommend starting with a shutter speed of 1/10, which is ideal for long exposures in low-light scenarios.
The best ISO when photographing fireworks will fall on the lower end, like 100 or 200, but some prefer to start at 400 and take a few shots before working their way down.
Once you set your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, you’ll be ready to capture the fireworks bursts!
Drone camera settings for fireworks photos
If you want to photograph fireworks with your drone, you’ll want to adjust the drone itself first, starting by turning the lights off.
The LEDs at the front may add extra glare and a glow from underneath that can totally obliterate what would otherwise be a great shot.
However, be sure you can still see and track your drone after adjustments.
You’ll also want to turn off sensors that won’t work in dark conditions, such as avoidance sensors.
In terms of camera settings, you’ll want to abide by the recommendations I already gave, such as selecting a slow shutter speed.
A wide angle zoom lens is best in this case when shooting fireworks, and be sure to lock your white balance in so it stays in daylight mode.
For optimal results, you should also set the focus to manual from the ground before testing things out with a nearby light source like a street light.
Best lens for fireworks photography
A wide angle lens is hands down the best choice when photographing fireworks.
I also agree with the industry pros at Nikon that an 18-140mm with a zoom lens works well for beautiful fireworks images.
And if you don’t have a wide angle lens, a telephoto zoom lens will perform better than a prime lens when photographing fireworks.
A telephoto zoom lens can be useful if you’re stuck right at the back of the fireworks show, or if you’re not actually attending the display.
If you don’t have something to focus on in your foreground, the infinity symbol on your lens barrel is your best friend.
Foreground subjects are important since they’ll add depth and context to your fireworks photography.
Best equipment for a fireworks photo
You don’t need a ton of gear when shooting fireworks, but the benefits of using a tripod when capturing fireworks cannot be underestimated!
A good tripod will ensure your shots are stable and clear and will make it easy to use a remote trigger for convenience.
Once you’ve picked the perfect spot to set up your camera and tripod, you can sit back and simply press a button to start shooting fireworks.
Mirrorless vs. DSLR cameras for a Fireworks Show
Mirrorless cameras are typically the secret weapon for snagging stunning shots of fireworks in the night sky.
Thanks to rapid, silent shooting, mirrorless cameras can shoot at higher frame rates than DSL or SLR cameras, which will allow you to more effectively capture shots in actions.
I would also argue that the autofocus capabilities of a mirrorless camera are much better than those of a standard DSLR.
However, you can easily find great choices in both categories that fit your budget and your needs, so don’t underestimate excellent point-and-shoot cameras from Nikon, Sony, or Panasonic.
How to Photograph Fireworks Without a Tripod
There’s no need to fret if you want to photograph fireworks and don’t have a tripod — camera settings make a big difference in keeping your shots crisp and clear.
As noted above, ISO, longer shutter speeds, and the aperture can really make a difference when shooting fireworks bursts.
Every photographer is familiar with getting creative when they need to keep their camera steady without a tripod.
Whether you have the ability to stay impressively still or invest in a handy camera strap, you’ll produce great fireworks shots.
You can also depend on some surprisingly sturdy lawn chairs and park picnic tables for the camera stability you need without a tripod.
One final option is to use your camera’s in-built image stabilization, if it offers it, although if you’re shooting handheld in low light, you’ll still need to hold your body as still as possible.
How to Take Pictures of Fireworks on iPhone
Even if you don’t have a camera, you can shoot great shots of fireworks from your phone, but I recommend using an app such as Slow Shutter Cam.
As the name implies, this app makes it easy to master longer exposure photography that’s typically reserved for DSLRs and is the best camera setting for fireworks on an iPhone.
But first things first! You need to turn off the auto-lock option in your iPhone settings to prevent your phone from shutting down.
Next, open the Slow Shutter Cam App, which will have three modes for capture.
Choose Light Trail Mode, which is the best mode on iPhones for fireworks, then adjust your Light Sensitivity — shoot for 1/2.
Next, set the Shutter Speed to the bulb mode just like you would with a camera and select a low ISO to prevent noise.
I recommend an ISO of 80 for optimal low-noise recording performance.
26 Examples of Creative Long-Exposure Fireworks Photography
Capturing the still elements during live-action events can seem daunting, but don’t worry!
I’ll provide some great examples of creative long-exposure fireworks photography below that will leave you curious and inspired.