How To Photograph Fireworks

Do your Independence Day festivities include watching fireworks? Have you wondered why your photographs of the rocket’s red glare look a bit more like blurry bursts of light without much detail?

This year you can capture the beauty of the Fourth of July fireworks with whatever camera you have.

Set your camera up before the fireworks begin. Trust your settings and go with it. It’s far too easy to get caught up in fiddling with everything so that you miss the fireworks and capture nothing. Trust me, I speak from personal experience.

A tabletop display at my neighborhood celebration, using the same settings used for big displays.

Choose Your Settings


You have many choices and lots of creative opportunity. Start with a slow shutter speed to see the fun you can have.

In Manual Mode try these settings:

  • ISO 100
  • Aperture f/8 to  f/16
  • Shutter Speed 2 seconds to 4 seconds (it look like 2 inches, 2″)

Point & Shoot

Choose fireworks mode. This will slow your shutter and help you to capture light trails.


Turn HDR off. Try a an app like Slow Shutter Cam for a little creative edge.

Turn Your Flash Off

You are going to have plenty of light from the fireworks and your flash isn’t going to reach far anyway, so go ahead and turn it off.  Of course, if you want to illuminate someone in the foreground with fireworks in the background flash would be awesome, but that’ s for another post!

Steady Your Camera

No tripod?  Grab any steady surface you can find.

In a pinch, grab a bag of rice before you head out. It is  a nice stabilizer for your camera and is much cheaper than a tripod.

Sometimes the view is as amazing as a stop sign and some trees. But it's my view. The best viewing parking lot in town.

Place Something In The Frame

Foreground objects provide context and point of reference for your fireworks photos. You can get creative with this and scope out your spots before your shoot or just go with what you find from the parking lot you find yourself in!

Anticipate The Shot

Keep in mind that if you press the shutter button WHEN you see the fireworks you are going to capture them too late, producing a photo that isn’t quite what you saw.

Try timing it to press in anticipation of the fireworks. This is especially important for phones and point and shoots.

Enjoy The Moment

Enjoy the display, enjoy photographing it. Take a minute or two and put your camera down to just take in the beauty of the display.

I’d love to hear what frustrates you most about photographing fireworks. Share in the comments below.