Jun 282014
 

Kari Sikorski, a professional photographer based in Salt Lake City, Utah, shares a guest post on how to capture amazing photos of Fireworks like a professional.  She takes all the guess work out of using a DSLR camera for you in this tutorial.

Firework Photography

by Kari Sikorski


The key is to have a long exposure and keep the camera steady.  Use a DSLR for the best results.

1. Use a Tripod:  Longer shutter speeds will not only capture the movement of the fireworks but any movement of the camera itself. The best way to keep your camera still is with a tripod.  

2. Remote Release: One way to ensure your camera is completely still during fireworks shots is to invest in a remote release device.


3. Framing Your Shot:  Scope out the location early – get a good, unobstructed position. Think about what is in the foreground and background of your shots and make sure you won’t have people’s heads in your shots (also consider what impact you’ll have on others around you also). Take note of where fireworks are being set up and what parts of the sky they are likely to be shot into.

  • Find Out the Direction of the Wind – You want to shoot up wind, so it goes Camera, Fireworks, Smoke. Otherwise the images will come out hazy. Make sure you are ready to take pictures of the first fireworks. If there isn’t much wind, you are going to end up with a lot of smoke in your shot as the show goes on. The first explosions are usually the sharpest ones.
  • Watch your Horizons – This is especially important if you’re going to shooting with a wide focal length and will get other background elements in your shots (ie a cityscape). Make sure your camera is level on your tripod.
  • Vertical or Horizontal?  Vertical works well because there is a lot of vertical motion in fireworks. Horizontal shots can work if you’re going for more of a landscape shot with a wider focal length or if you want to capture multiple bursts of fireworks in one shot.
  • Remember your framing – spend less time looking in the viewfinder and more time looking at the  sky. Doing this will also help you to anticipate the right time for a shot as you’ll see the light trails of unexploded rockets shooting into the sky.


4. Focal Length: I recommend using a zoom lens. Wide angle or zoomed in… experiment for variety.

5. ISO & Aperture: Set your ISO to 100 – fireworks are bright, and a low ISO has less noise/grain. Set your aperture to f/8.


6. Shutter Speed: Set the shutter speed to Bulb (B) setting. Bulb leaves the shutter open for as long as you depress the shutter release, and it’s a great way to make sure that you capture exactly what you see in the sky because you control when the exposure starts and stops. Hit the shutter as the firework is trailing up into the sky, and hold it down until it’s finished exploding (about 1-2 seconds).

Don’t keep your shutter open too long. fireworks are bright and it doesn’t take too much to over expose them, especially if your shutter is open for multiple bursts in the one area of the sky.

7. Switch off your Flash: If you’re using an SLR, simply lowering the flash and setting the camera to Manual mode will keep the flash from going off.


8. Manual Focus: If you leave your camera set to auto focus the lens will whir backwards and forwards trying to find something to focus on in the black sky and you’ll end up missing a lot of shots.

Set the lens to manual focus and set it to the ∞ (infinity) mark and leave it there. The fireworks will be far enough away that the camera would focus at infinity anyway.

9. Experiment and Check Results: Throughout the fireworks display occasionally check your results, but don’t check after every shot or you’ll miss the show.

When you’re shooting fireworks at night, the aperture controls the brightness of the lights, and the shutter speed determines how long the light trails appear in the photo.


If you want brighter fireworks, open the aperture by making the f number smaller (f5.6).

If the overall photo looks overexposed, make the f-number bigger (f11). Try again until you get an exposure you like.  Post-processing—darken the sky for increased contrast.


I asked Kari about her love of photography. This is her story about becoming a professional photographer: I have had a camera in my hands since I was about 7 years old. I grew up taking photographs of everything, and have a ridiculous amount of photo albums from my childhood which I cherish today. My dad first taught me how to shoot manually on his old 35mm that he carried in the Navy.

I am a mom to three adorable, loud, rambunctious boys, and photographing them gave me a new appreciation for what a photograph can mean to someone.

Check out her blog for the photos that have captured those smiles, milestones, relationships and special moments for her clients.

  22 Responses to “Take Fireworks Photos Like a Professional”

  1. Thank you for tips Neva 🙂

  2. These are fantastic Kari and thank you for sharing her with us, Neva! I’m still a newbie photographer with night time photos so your suggestions are fantastic! Thank you 🙂

    • I’m so glad that you have enjoyed and will be able to use her tips. In case you may have wondered or guessed, a parent is always proud of their children’s accomplishments. Kari is my daughter and an accomplished photographer as you surmised from her tutorial.

  3. Those are great tips and I really need to learn how to use my camera better. Those pictures came out great. Thanks for sharing. =)

  4. Those are great shots. I am not particularly adept with a camera and need all the help that I can get! Thanks!

    • My daughter’s tutorial will make it simple for you to enjoy using your camera more. Glad these information is helpful.

  5. These came out great! I have never been able to photograph fireworks, but you make it sound easy! I may have to give it a shot!

  6. I should have read this yesterday because I absolutely got no photos because they did not look right on my camera. I use a DSLR but just couldn’t get it to look right. Shucks!

    • That’s a shame that your photos didn’t come out well on your camera. Hopefully there will be some more fireworks over the weekend for you to practice with.

  7. These are beautiful shots of fireworks. Anytime I’ve ever gotten a great picture is purely by accident. lol You give some great tips and advice here. Thank you for sharing!

    • My professional photographer is my daughter and I can’t take any credit for her talents, except to pass on her tips.

  8. Great tips and fantastic photos! I’ve always wanted to be able to take better pictures at night.

  9. I love your posts. I always leave with something to think about and some great tips. I have to try these tips out the next time we do fireworks. I always have a hard time capturing them just right. Your pictures are always so wonderful.

    • Thanks so much for your kind comments. I’m glad this tutorial will be helpful for your future photos.

  10. Awesome shots and what some great advice, Kari. Thanks Neva for sourcing such an interesting and valuable guest post 🙂

    • This tutorial has so much great information for you pro photographer rock stars. I just had to share this advice on firework photos.

  11. What an interesting post. Will share with my husband who loves to photograph fireworks.
    Best, Irene

    • I’m so glad that my daughter’s guest post will be fun for him to enjoy. I would be interested in his comments from a fellow photographer too.

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