How to Shoot Fireworks

For DSLR Owners – A stable tripod is a must; and a small flashlight can be a great help if you need to change camera settings in the dark. Get to the venue early enough to stake out a good position and to set up your camera while there’s still enough light to manually focus. Put your camera on a tripod and turn off the vibration control or stabilization function on your lens. Using autofocus, focus on the point where the fireworks will be ignited. Then move your camera/lens settings to manual focus and fine tune the focus to maximum sharpness – use your digital zoom button and live view mode if you have those functions. Once properly focused, don’t change the focus unless you move to a different location – tape the focus ring to the lens if necessary. If you can’t see well enough to focus, set the focus to infinity. Set your camera to manual mode, then set the aperture to f/11, the ISO to 100 (not auto), and the shutter speed to 8 seconds. Do not use flash. Use a remote shutter release if you have one, or use the camera’s delay timer set to 2 seconds to fire the shutter.

For Point & Shoot or Smartphone Owners – Again, a tripod is a must. If your device has manual mode and manual focus capabilities, by all means use them. If not, use a scene mode set for fireworks, starry night, or the like – these will set the focus to infinity and will use shutter, aperture and ISO settings similar to the above. If you use manual focus, set it to infinity.  Autofocus should be avoided – at night it tends to “hunt” for a focus point and you’ll likely get a blurry picture. And again, disable the flash.

I’m available for one-on-one tutoring if you live in the Albuquerque area.  

Have a fun, safe and happy July 4th holiday!

I took this photo last year with my Nikon D7100 affixed with 18-300 mm zoom lens at 90mm. Aperture f/11, ISO 100, shutter speed 8 seconds. Your mileage may vary. 🙂


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About Dave Hood

Married to my wife of 47 years, Barbara. Two adopted grandsons, Jim age 13, and Billy, age 8. Retired from the Air Force Reserve after 26 years in 1993. Retired from Air Force civil service with 34 years of service in 2000. Worked an additional 7 years for General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems before finally leaving the workforce. Hobbies include working around the house, exercising our Labradoodle Shadow, travel, and photography. My photo equipment includes a Nikon D7100 camera, several Nikon lenses, a Nikon SB-700 speedlight, a Manfrotto tripod, a Kodak monopod, and assorted filters. I use Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS6 for post processing and ProShow Producer software for producing slide shows (mostly about travel) set to music.

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