Fireworks Photo Fail

April 11, 2011 | 12 Comments | Email | Print

This past weekend I took my Chief Culinary Consultant to Saturday’s opening weekend Pirates game as a Valentine’s Day gift. It was a fireworks night (the first of the season!) so I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to try to practice shooting fireworks. Before going to the game, I read a tutorial on Digital Photography School and gathered some tips. Since I wouldn’t be using a tripod or remote release (two primary recommendations), my main takeaways were: (1) Use a slow shutter speed; (2) Use an aperture in the f/8.0 to 16.0 range; and (3) Use a low ISO (recommended was 100).

I ended up only taking a handful of shots because I wanted to actually enjoy watching the fireworks and not be totally worried about photographing them, but I was disappointed in the ones that I took. I didn’t get the “raining” effect of fireworks, you can see a lot of the smoke, and I felt like my timing was definitely off.

I started out with my ISO on 100 and it was way, way too dark so I ended up switching it to auto. I kept my shutter speed at 1/125, which was probably way too fast, and my aperture at f/8.0. Below are the photos…

Would love to hear about any tips or experiences you have regarding fireworks photography!

Camera Settings: Lens 50mm 1.8, ISO 3200, Aperture f/8.0, Exposure 1/125


Camera Settings: Lens 50mm 1.8, ISO 3200, Aperture f/8.0, Exposure 1/125


Camera Settings: Lens 50mm 1.8, ISO 3200, Aperture f/8.0, Exposure 1/125


Camera Settings: Lens 50mm 1.8, ISO 3200, Aperture f/8.0, Exposure 1/125


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12 Responses to Fireworks Photo Fail

Alex April 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Fireworks are tough! Shutter speed is definitely the most important thing for getting the “raining” effect – but then you are stuck trying to hold the camera still.

Not bad pics at all for a first try!


Kare April 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm

In my (limited) experience the tripod is key. Would also recommend a wider angle lens. That said, I’m a novice myself overall and I’m sure others will chime in with much better recommendations!

Sounds like a fun time regardless of the “fail.” :)


Barbara | VinoLuciStyle April 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Aren’t fireworks used as an example of one of the most difficult things to get right? Good for you for trying.

I bought a tripod with a center leg that is removable to be used as a monopod. I love it…nowhere near as bulky as a tripod, it’s perfect for events like this as it collapses into an easily carried accessory. Because when your shutter speed is slow you are going to see the effects of any little movement and steadying that camera is so critical.


Kelly (the dSLR newbie) April 13, 2011 at 8:33 am

Night photography is tough … fireworks is twice as tough! You were missing some key equipment (tripod + remote) and you still managed to get some sweet shots, so good job.


anne April 19, 2011 at 7:07 pm

If you use the bulb shutter setting, you will not only get the “raining” effect, but you could also get several explosions in each shot. This speed does benefit from a tripod or some other bracing mechanism, because any movement will be noticeable.


nora April 22, 2011 at 1:22 am

i love those pics -def better than any fireworks i have ever managed! ;)
do you live in pittsburgh? i spent a year there as an au pair after high school, have very find memories of the place.


Michelle @ Brown Eyed Baker April 22, 2011 at 9:34 am

Hi Nora, I am from Pittsburgh, born and raised. So happy to hear you enjoyed the city while you lived here!


Pink Martinis and Pearls June 5, 2011 at 7:17 pm

I was just thinking of taking the Big Bang Fireworks at Angels Stadium this week but wanted to watch instead. Tough choice. lol! Love your goodies. Came over for the vanilla cupcakes. Love the DC Cupcakes show too. Click on! :)


Susan Solo September 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm

To add to the bulb setting/longer shutter speed + tripod recommendations, on bulb mode you can also use a black card (or even just your hand if you’re careful) to hold over the lens between firework bursts if they are spread out to get a layered effect. You are essentially leaving the lens open to record the fireworks, but then acting as a shutter to temporarily close it between fireworks. Let me know if I can help more! Your food photography is beautiful.


Clayton L Pratt September 19, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I have been doing fireworks and other forms of night time photography for many years, I would be more than happy to help you work on that. It is very simple really, but a tripod and a remote shutter release are the most important aspects. Shutter speed, aperture, ISO, filters, etc, will be largely dependent on the ambient light in the area where you are shooting. Another big issue is composition, the surroundings in your photo are what make a truly wonderful shot. Pointing straight up and getting the fireworks alone is cool, but leaves the photos flat and uninteresting. I tend to like old buildings, signs at crossroads, bodies of water, etc. Feel free to chat about food or photos anytime. My main email is there are many things you can do to practice the same types of effects to get in tune for when the fourth comes back around also, fireworks are not needed to hone skills (but a few kids can be really helpful, and more than enthusiastic to help. Take care



Lou October 2, 2011 at 10:17 am

Use a long shutter speed. Set the camera on a tripod. point it in the direction of the fireworks and go from there. A couple of seconds usually works best. Use surroundings as a frame rather than just shooting the fireworks.


Shirley November 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

You need 2 things: a remote shutter release and a tripod. Both sets of equipment helps you hold the camera still. Even if your camera is on a tripod, depressing the button manually still makes in shake. Anyway, set your exposure to BULB and hold your shutter open (using the remote) for a few seconds. I like 7-10 seconds of exposure. Especially since our fireworks techs like to wait for a few seconds between bursts. But you have to experiment to see what you like and how your city time their show. Here’s one of mine that I took 4th of July 2008:
:) Good luck in 2012!


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