Oct 31, 2018

Fireworks in the night sky look surreal. To capture and enjoy anything so heavenly, a price has to be paid. Getting good fireworks photographs is not a luck-by-chance scenario. There has to be a well-designed plan. To have a good fireworks photograph, you have to be very aware and agile. This is tricky and challenging but that’s where all the fun lies. Let us take a look at the most crucial aspects of fireworks photography.


The location vantage point: Location scouting is one of the most important parts of this kind of photography. Professional photographers reach the venue well in advance to capture the best spots. You don’t want to be shooting from behind a crowd. Fireworks photography is not only about you and your camera gear. Choose a location that is the least crowded. While choosing a particular spot, decide on the background you will want to include in your images. Make sure there are no foreground distractions in your frame. Fireworks photography will require patience and moving with all your camera gear is the last thing you would want to do on the big day. Ensure that there is an upside wind. If there is a downward wind, the smoke from the fireworks will come between your camera and the fireworks, thus spoiling what would otherwise be a perfect shot.


A dslr camera is always preferable. In case you don’t have one, carry any camera. It is always preferable to carry a couple of lenses. A wide angle lens will be used to capture the entire cityscape with the fireworks. A telephoto zoom lens will be used to shoot the fireworks up close. The most important accessory is the tripod. A sturdy tripod is mandatory to get good fireworks shots since this is a type of long exposure photography as well.

You can obviously shoot at high shutter speeds to freeze the motion as well. The tripod should have a weight bearing capacity that is twice the weight of the camera gear. In case you are planning to do long exposures as well, carry extra batteries. A remote shutter cable can be very handy here. Carry extra memory cards since you need to shoot in raw all the time.

Camera Settings, focusing and the burst mode:

The burst mode is that mode in your camera which enables you to take continuous shots, one after the other. Burst mode is required to capture the fireworks in motion. Since it is only a matter of a few seconds, you need to take the shots continuously in order to get the proper moment. Burst mode requires memory cards with good writing speeds. Choose a memory card which has writing speeds of approximately 80mbps and above.

The focusing will depend on the composition.

If you are planning to shoot the entire cityscape with the fireworks, it is better to operate in manual mode by having the entire cityscape in sharp focus. Setup your focus in advance and get a couple of test shots. With the help of the depth of field calculator, you will have an idea of the depth of field of yours. In case you are planning to get up close and personal with the fireworks with your zoom lens, autofocusing will be required. Use the AI servo or autofocus continuous mode with all the focusing points enabled.


For fireworks photography, you need to shoot in manual mode. You will have to set your focus at just below infinity. Use an aperture in the range of f/8 to f/22, depending on your framing. Such an aperture will give you a huge depth of field to keep the fireworks and cityscape in focus.

Shutter speed:

The most crucial setting for fireworks photography is your shutter speed. Lower the speed of your shutter, more the light you are allowing. Think of the fireworks in the night sky. What makes them look fabulous is how they create several patterns in the sky. We can see and enjoy them with our eyes, but with a fast shutter speed, your camera won’t be able to. Keep a shutter speed of 2-10 seconds to capture the illuminated paths that the fireworks have just created across the night sky. When you are looking to freeze the motion you need to use shutter speeds in the range of 1/500th of a second or faster. This will again depend on the amount of light that is present out there.


Keep your ISO at 100 to avoid any noise. With very fast shutter speeds, you might have to boost your ISO up to 800 or 1600. Make sure you know what the maximum usable ISO of your camera is. Do not stretch that limit under any circumstances or else you will end up with irreversible damage caused by digital noise.

White Balance:

Keep your white balance to automatic mode while shooting in RAW. This can be adjusted during post production. Normally a colour temperature in the range of 5000K – 6000K is used.


Framing or composition is perhaps the most crucial aspect of any genre of photography. Fireworks photography is no exception. The tricky thing about this is you are never sure where the fireworks are going to actually explode. Point your camera straight at the horizon in order to include the city backdrop, or a river or any other subject you may find suitable. The composition is what will separate your images from that of the others. Do not focus only on the fireworks. Try to involve some human element to your images since the entire festival is about emotions at the end of the day. Try to have someone in the foreground and capture the moment where he/she is looking at the exploding fireworks in the night sky.


Bring out all the creativity from within. Try shooting in the bulb mode with the use of a remote shutter cable. Combine an appropriate shutter speed, an innovative frame and an apt angle to bring out the best of fireworks photography.