Saturday, July 6, 2013


This past fourth of July, we celebrated the freedom of our country in the good ol' United States of America.  This was also the first time I set out to photograph fireworks which can be a little tricky because there aren't many opportunities to practice.  Even after reading up on it and learning the basics, I still went into it blindly.  I put together some tips for you based on my experience and hope to help you out at the next fireworks worthy occasion.

Fernandina Beach, FL
ISO 100 ~ 95mm ~ f/20 ~ 7.0 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Tip #1

Allow plenty of time to arrive to the location and to get set up.

Reality ~ we arrived just as the fireworks were starting and ended up getting diverted to a dead end alley (where the view was pretty good), but it left me flustered trying to set up my camera, tripod, and remote while the fireworks were already going off.

Tip #2

Make sure you have a high f/stop # (small aperture).  Not sure what this is? Read up here.

Reality ~ I forget to raise my f/stop # and ended up shooting at f/5.6 for most of the fireworks.  This left me with many images I could not use because they were not crisp and the depth of field was too small.  By the time I realized this mistake the show was 95% done.  It is recommended to shoot with f/18 or higher for fireworks.

Tip #3

Even though you cannot practice shooting fireworks beforehand, you can practice with some night shooting to experiment with the bulb setting on your shutter.

Reality ~ I'm ashamed to admit I've never once used the bulb setting on my shutter before and that left me fumbling around trying to get the hang of it in the middle of the fireworks show.

Tip #4

You MUST have a tripod and a remote.  Imperative.  If you don't have a tripod or a remote, you can improvise, but it will make it much more challenging and more of a chance your photos will be blurry with camera shake.

Reality ~ I actually remembered both :)

Tip #5

Focus.  I'm sure there are several ways to do this, but this is what I ended up doing and it worked pretty well.  I used auto focus while a firework was exploding and then flipped my lens onto manual.  That way the camera was not looking for a focal point each time.  For the most part, fireworks are set off at the same spot, so your focal distance should not change.

Reality ~ I tried to straight up manually focus and couldn't do it.  The way I just described is what worked best for me.

Fernandina Beach, FL
ISO 100 ~ 85mm ~ f/5.6 ~ 5.0 sec
© Corrie M Avila


Have fun!! Be creative!!  There is no "right" or "wrong" way to photograph fireworks.  By the end of the display I got the hang of what my results looked like when I did different things and began to plan when I would open and close the shutter.  This photograph is by far my favorite of the evening creatively speaking.

Fernandina Beach, FL
ISO 100 ~ 100mm ~ f.20 ~ 6.0 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Look in your local paper and local "happenings" because there are often fireworks during other times too.  I read that there is a local shrimp festival here in Fernandina Beach that also hosts fireworks.  Next time I'd like to try out these methods by Photographer David Johnson.  The results are creative and resemble Chihuly blown glass (to me at least :)

Capturing the Moment,

Corrie <3


  1. These shots are terrific! I stink terribly at capturing fireworks - and I'm sure it's because I try to do it without a tripod and remote - I finally realized they are must haves (as you say). :)

    1. Thank you so much Penny! Yes, I tripod is SO important!! If you don't have one, you can improvise with placing your camera on a sturdy object (like a car, cooler, ledge) ~ but it makes it so much more difficult to adjust your settings and to get the angle you need for the fireworks in the sky.