How to Shoot Fireworks with Your dSLR - dummies

By David D. Busch

You don’t have to wait until Independence Day to shoot fireworks. People commemorate a lot of other events and celebrations, including baseball games and auto races, with an aerial display. Perhaps you avoid shooting fireworks because you think capturing skyrockets in flight is too difficult. Or maybe you just want to watch the show, rather than fiddle with your camera. You can do both!

The secret to shooting fireworks is to do a little planning. Here are some tips:

  • Choose your spot. You can position yourself up close and capture the display from underneath the exploding canopy or get farther back and shoot the fireworks against a skyline. Both approaches work great. What you don’t want is a view that’s obstructed by buildings, trees, or very tall fellow observers.

  • Use a tripod. Set your camera on a tripod so that it remains rock-steady during exposures that can last several seconds.

  • Check it out. Take a few pictures at the beginning of the display and evaluate them to make sure your manually set exposures are reasonable. Try two to three seconds at f/8 for starters. Use manual focus set on infinity!

  • Go long. Use longer exposures to capture multiple bursts in one frame.


  • Shoot RAW. Use your dSLR’s RAW option so that you can adjust exposure and other parameters as the image is imported into your photo editor.

  • Don’t use noise reduction. If your camera kicks into Noise Reduction (NR) mode automatically, disable that mode. Don’t manually activate NR, either. The extra time required to create the noise reduction “dark frame” can cause you to miss the next blastoff. Even a several-second exposure still looks good without this extra step.

  • Enjoy the show. After you set up your camera and frame an area of the sky where you expect the bursts to appear, just watch the display without peering through the viewfinder. Trigger your shots by pressing the shutter release button or by using a remote control or cable release (if you can use one with your dSLR).