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Tips for Photographing Fireworks - Get ready! :)

Taking photographs of fireworks is great fun -- and very challenging. Veteran photographers know these tricks, and I wanted to share some with you.

Now, you can take photos as well as the stereotypical creepy-uncle-photographer.

1) Get your camera on a stable surface. 

2) Turn off your flash.

3) Get something else in the photo besides the exploding firework to give perspective and set the scene.

4) Set your focus once on a distant light, then switch to manual focus for the rest of the fireworks show.

More advanced tricks, for people with fancier cameras:

5) Do you have auto-bracketing? Set it up so that your exposures are 1, 2, and 4 seconds apart. That would be -1, 0, and +1 with the anchor at 2 seconds. Since you never know how many fireworks will explode at once, this adds a random timing element to combat the random timing of the burst pattern.

6) (intermediate tip) Set yourself up in Aperture priority and set the aperture to as low a number as possible. If you don't feel comfy enough in Manual, then Aperture priority mode will figure out your Shutter speed. 

7) Turn off auto NR (Noise-Reduction). If it is on, the computer in your camera will take an extra long time to get rid of the noise after each shot… and you'll miss valuable bursts!

8) Keep your finger on the power-off button! If you are in the middle of a long exposure, and you have just seen a pleasing pattern of fireworks with your human eyes, TURN OFF the camera. This will close the shutter and complete the photo, saving you from possibly covering up the nice firework with a new burst.
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437 comments
 
thx I will have to save this for next year as I am in colorado and there will be nary a firework in sight
 
Perfect shot for a beautiful picture. Very colorful.
 
It's true, to be a great photographer, you must first be a creepy uncle.
 
I've wondered about that last tip - always been afraid that it would harm the camera, screw up the memory card, or corrupt the image file.
 
PHHT... any excuse to, once more, drag out that first HDR photo to ever hang in the Smithsonian, thing eh +Trey Ratcliff? ... damn showoff ;P
 
Not mentioned, but shoot early - unless you like taking pictures of backlit smoke of course.
 
Gorgeous... and awesome!   Love it so much.
 
Very good tips - can I add another? Arrive really early to make sure you get an excellent viewpoint for the show. If you don't want people in the shot, try to preemptively place yourself in a position where no one can come and stand in front of you to obscure the view, because if they can, they will. Trust me on that. If you don't mind people in the shot and have set up behind where people are sitting or standing, be prepared to move the camera around mid-show as latecomers join the party and upset your composition.

I just had my Canada Day fireworks shoot mostly spoiled by a guy who arrived the precise minute the fireworks started and set up his tripod in front of the rest of us who had arrived early and had positioned ourselves carefully to avoid being in each others' way (there was no room for me to move the cameras after he got in the way). Wasted hours of planning and a sore back from carrying extra equipment around all day. Please do not let this happen to you!
 
Reminds me how much I LOVE fireworks! and why!
 
Just a fantastic photo. Did you post this on Flickr some time a go? I think I have seen it before and still love it just as much as the first time.
 
Thanks for the tips. Will remember these next New Years Eve! :)
Sam Seo
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Where is this and where were you?
 
it looks like a palm tree
Jenna C
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+shelley pierce I'm driving down to a different city. If you look online you can find there is some cities that have them. 
Matt V
 
Thanks will try these tips out!
 
The reason i got into photography was because of this photo. A year ago I came across it looking for tips on how to shoot fireworks. Which led me to Stuck in Customs and Trey. Thank you so much for your community support it has changed my perception in life.
 
hey, let's lay off the oversaturation. That example photo you posted is tres-ugly.
 
thats the most pretiest thing ever....
 
Instead of turning off the camera, can you just put a hat in front of it to stop the exposure?
 
yes, specially on how to captured image like this...
 
I use a remote and bulb setting - just let go and push it right away again and U get tons of shots
 
i commenting when i im playing karoake pARTY
 
Thanks for sharing.. practice makes perfect
 
I'll be using these tips for tomorrow. So glad you shared this information.
 
+Trey Ratcliff No advice on Shutter speed or Aperture? Really? Ok, I'll help. You can go up to 30 seconds with an f-stop of around 16-22 if you like but I found that staying around 3-10 seconds and an f-stop of around 5 is the ideal shooting situation. You can also find your focus in live view if you must but once you get it locked don't touch it.
Here's my shot from last Monday in Detroit...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/22176685@N07/7458422714/in/photostream
 
thanks +Jim Hunt for the add on
what are your thoughts about number 8
Ive never hit the power button while my shutter was open....
 
What a thoughtful post! This tips are really handy.  Thank you.
 
If the camera allows it, using the 'Bulb' setting seems like it would work just as well as shutting off the camera.
 
Wow. HDR photography is kinda scary sometimes.
 
I'm going to try some of these tips tonight! Off to charge the battery...
 
TREY FOR THE INFO , PLEASE POST MORE TY .
 
Trey:  myself, a first timer around thanks to my friend, Dennis, and your picture is very a-propos find today, Tuesday July 3th.  it is indeed  a memorable shot with useful tips..would you mind if i re-post it here and there and somewhere else ? George
 
Great for those who havent been banned from shooting them. Cool stuff.
 
great guide, will use it next time there are fireworks here in Norway...that will be new years ;)
 
+eleisa barbour I have done it numerous times and have never (knock on wood) had an issue and it does work. +Trey Ratcliff probably forgot the biggest thing. TRIPOD! A stable surface is a bit different than a tripod. Get a good tripod. It'll literally change your shooting.
 
Awesome, i was just searching for this.
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awsome, hope I can get one pic like this.
 
I was going to look for tips for our fireworks show where I live, but because of the dry conditions it was canceled. I guess there's always next year.....
 
I have just started photography, and I guess I learned one thing from the comments. TRIPOD!!!
 
Thank you! This should be very helpful tomorrow :)
 
Interesting, I would have thought turning off the camera would have interrupted the save process, but I guess not?
 
Thanks for the tips.  These will come in handy.
Lisa L
 
Beautiful photo (and great tips too!). Thx for sharing.
 
This picture is an absolutely beautiful picture.
 
Trey, you are an amazing photographer! You really know what color means. Thanks for sharing!
 
i dont care at all about stupid firework pictures: BRING ON TEH NUKES
 
you are really good at this
 
Its the best firework ever
                                  
                                      ~ My sister
Bu Xu
 
Thnx for the tips
 
so awesome i wish i could go there and see it.......................but to bad i cant .
 
correct me if i am wrong but wasn't this photo of yours in the smithsonian museum? 
 
Thanks for the tips...i also use a tripod to combat my shaky hands. 
 
wow thnx my dream is to be a photographer but i dont know how to be like that what i  must do !!!!!!!
 
amazing photograph.  The lighting it unreal!
 
beautiful looks like a painting
 
Using B or Bulb mode is a great way to catch the patterns you want. B mode lets you hold your finger on the shutter release to keep the shutter open. Hold your finger on the button until you see a pleasing burst, then let go to close the shutter. 
 
Wow..., truly, truly brilliat picture!!!!!!! I'm not good at taking a photograph but I must admit that it's an awesome pic of yours +Trey Ratcliff love & admire it.
 
very cool i like the colorful boats
 
And the ISO? "When light is low increase the ISO" 1600 to start. A BIG tripod is a must.
 
I try to keep the ISO under 200, usually with f8. This way the camera I use keeps the noise down on the pictures. I also have the ability to turn off the bad pixel filtering and can do that in batch with a utility.
 
and then if all else fails... you can photoshog it to what ever you want.....
 
Now that is really good to know..... learn something new in Google world..... thanks....
 
this is wonderful, but does not look original.
Sam Liu
 
what a picture!
Mj DEAN
 
Just in time for tommorow night !:)
 
I don't need those tips casue I'm not going to the firework show 
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great explanation. absolutely awesome read!!!! sharing is caring!
 
love it a piece of artwork
 
Thank you for sharing!
I will try it.:D
 
Thanks for the helpful tips!
 
fireworks in utah, that's a nice one
 
cool but i've seen better.  i would like to see a photo of lighting bolts with a sky line in front. (just a probability)
 
Pretty I love the 4 especially cuz we're I'm from it rains the 3 &4 every year
 
awesome photography!  Thanks for sharing...
 
this is some of the awesomest fireworks ever i love the boats that makes it more wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Trey - thanks for the tips & for posting the amazing shot!  The dark clouds in the background actually help the fireworks pop - and the whole pic is so crisp.  Can't wait to try this myself!
 
I like the shot. But then I have to ask muself If +Ed White would approve? That's the gauge I use, mr  +Trey Ratcliff 
    Just kidding. A lot better than what i could do!! Have a great 4th!!
 
that pic iz soo pretty<3
 
I've gotten respectable results using shutter speed priority....
 
i love fireworks they are very pretty and the shapes and colors in Disney World are the best!!!!! HAPPY 4th OF JULY EVERYONE!!!!!!!!
 
i <3 fireworks there so awesome
 
when this world is evil god will give up on us have you prayed to him lately he hasn't been answering me and i'm not evil there are few exceptions and we're suffering for you evil people you know who you are so please clean up your acts and maybe he'll listen we need to get everyone in the world to pray for a new chance please listen to me im telling the truth
 
Very nice set of photography skills can I borrow them for the weekend  
 
whatever god will never give up on anyone who truly desires his help or him at all
 
Is so beutifull off the fire
 
that looks awesome!!!!!!!!!! iwonder where that is?
 
Also use a remote shutter release if you have one. But alas I'm also in CO where my city is burning down. Perhaps next year. 
 
The City of Lake Havasu City, AZ hosts fireworks manufacturers in November of each year.  This is where the municipalities come to see what is new and make contracts for New Years and 4th of July displays.  Typical Lake Havasu City weather for November (mid 80's), plus you have the reflection on the lake which makes for a much more dynamic shot. Any ideas on mobilizing the Southwest G+ community to get together and make a PhotoWalk out of it ???
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wow.....i love it...like malaysian celbration..=D
 
Don't really understand tip #4. Why switch to manual later?
 
Yo dude, best photo i probably seen on google+. Everyone just photoshops and even then it still looks bad.
 
Makes me want to finally read my manual to learn something besides the auto setting. 
 
Thank god pictures sick other people comment !! Android apple griffin death !!
 
thats the sickest pic. I've seen! whoever took it, con grads on being talented
 
i cant have fireworks in my state becasue of the fires
 
Nice tips Trey :) What I just found out I Canada day - the coolest part is the interaction of fireworks with the smoke of the burned ones. F1.4, 1/100 shutter and 6400 ISO, no tripod and i got some cool ones :) The noise was manageable, and the lit smoke clouds are very interesting. The pics are in my profile.
 
I only have one word to comment on this photo is very impressive at all
 
omg that's so kool! u should check out my page
 
This is great advice. I am going to print it out and see if I can learn some new tricks. Thank you so much for sharing, and what an amazing picture you've taken. Simply stunning.
 
May I ask what type of cameras you use..? And which you recommend
 
If I owned a pair of Project Glass, I'd put all your photos on rotation on the display, and so I'd be looking at them everywhere I went. I've been wanting to get into photography seriously for years, and your art is about to push into finally jumping the gun. 
 
I know this doesn't sound very intelligent or artistic,but...WOW!!!
 
Nice pic of the fireworks. I'll be going tomorrow.
 
Thanks that is going to be supper helpfup for tomorow :-D
 
the only part i dislike are the black clouds... but it's pretty
 
Can't wait love fireworks and my country!!!!!!
 
wow, Its soooo beautiful........................!!!!!!
 
TQ very very much for this great tip...
 
I wish we had fireworks this year. :(
 
Breath taking... This is what I love about the 4th of July. We get to see amazing firework displays!
 
Very informative....gonna try some of these tips during the festivities tomorrow night
GS GILL
 
Beautiful sight
 
ive never seen a firework so beautiful
 
so qut.................??????????
 
yup i made it also. It's such amazing and challenging thing which I've ever done in photography.
 
As an uncle photographer, I take umbrage with the "creepy" label. :)
 
Thanks for the tips Uncle Trey! ;-D
 
Or use Photoshop. :-D
 
this is actually an award winning photo that was created using HDR imaging techniques and software.  Terry knows his $h|t
 
HDR destroys a well conceived photograph.  It's a visual effect relying on post-production expertise.  I'm happy to have that off my chest!
 
Fire works are awesome but this is amazing.
 
Thanks for sharing this!! My sister LOVES taking pictures of events like fireworks displays. She recently took pictures of the fireworks show on the Canada Day long weekend & I gotta tell ya, they turned out EXCELLENT!!
 
Nice , this is going to be my desktop wallpaper !!
 
What a vivid explanation, thanx a lot,very informativegj
dj lan
 
coooooooool
 
This is great, I will try it out.
Lek VP
 
Thanks for nice tips
 
Thanks for this. Will come in handy this July 4th. 
 
I appreciate the advise! I was having a hard time this weekend. I'm very new to photography, and love that I'm working with a Sony Nex-7, but the bracketing leaves a lot to be desired. I like the tip on the power off button thought, my best pictures came from a barrage of roman candles but my last exposure was interrupted by a minivan that had no idea he was disrupting my shot. I still think it turned out great regardless.
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love how silvery the water looks and how soft the clouds look
 
very useful tips! and very nice pic! gd job Trey
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