Photos of Fireworks.. The Easy Way….

Well, with the forth of July quickly approaching and everywhere having a fireworks display I thought I might give you my “secret” formula for taking photos of fireworks.

Back in  the day when I was using film, fireworks were very simple.  I used 100 ISO film and set the aperture to f8 and the shutter speed to 8sec.  That was it, nothing to it.  But in todays world of digital photography with different types of sensors and such I have found that a little experimentation works best.

But even with all that it’s really not that hard to do.  So here is what I use and suggest as a good place to start.


  • DSLR (Nikon D300)
  • Lens or Lenses (Sigma 24-60 f2.8, Nikon 80-200 f2.8)
  • Sturdy tripod (Bogen with ball head)
  • Cable release (optional but recommended)


  • 200 ISO
  • f11 or f16
  • shutter speed between 2 and 6 seconds

That’s it, not much in the way of equipment, but you really don’t need too much to get the job done.   Now for the experimental part of the process.

I have found with my particular camera that 200 ISO and f16 works the best and then I move the shutter speed around a little.  I recommend not looking at the meter and using the manual exposure mode in your camera.  I start with a shutter speed of about 2sec and go up to about 6sec.  As a side note: during the grand finally I suggest a shorter shutter speed to counteract the extreme amount of light and avoid overexposure.

When I start the night out I usually will compose my shot and present the focus manually, in the area where I expect the fireworks to be going off.  Once the first one goes off I will make any adjustments to the composition and focus and typically will leave the camera alone from then on, only changing if I decide to go from horizontal to vertical.  I use a cable release to eliminate camera shake from touching the camera and it also allows me to watch the fireworks rather than look at them through the viewfinder.  So that’s the big “secret” to fireworks photography.  Well I hope this is a little helpful, if you have any questions or would like any more help feel free to leave a comment and I will respond as quickly as possible.  Also if you are in the Pittsburgh area on Monday there will be several of us up river from Station Square,  If you would like to join us stop by for a little socializing and great fireworks photos.

Do you think you might like to attempt some shots this year?

Here are a couple of my shots from last year in Pittsburgh, Pa.


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