Holiday Extravaganza: Photographing Fireworks

Canada Day and U.S. Fourth of July Offer Exciting Photo Ops

by Kerry Drager

Displays of fireworks are such great celebrations of light and color - and it's no surprise that they've captured the attention of BetterPhoto members. In North America each summer, Canada Day (July 1st) and the U.S. Fourth of July offer excellent chances for shooting these fantastic bursts of color. Regardless of when or where they light up the sky, fireworks always create a spectacle worth photographing. As with many subjects, however, shooting fireworks involves planning and preparation, as well as some special shooting techniques.

Light over the Capital
© Sharon Morris
All Rights Reserved

Photographing Fireworks .. Include Identifiable Landmarks

Pictures of fireworks come in two types: generic (which focus entirely on the blasts of light and could have been photographed anywhere) and location related (which include recognizable features). The accompanying images show fireworks displays in familiar settings: San Francisco, New York City, Minnesota, and Long Beach, Calif. Check BetterPhoto's outstanding Fireworks Picture Page gallery for fireworks scenes that focus on Seattle, Mount Rushmore, Atlanta, and many other locations.

Washington D.C. is also a hot locale for fireworks, and here are some thoughts from Smithsonian staff photographers:

© Jim Zuckerman
All Rights Reserved

In Praise of Color ... and Black and White!

Fireworks and color just seem to go together. Streaks of bright lights can fill the picture with so many different colors. However, as instructor/author Jim Zuckerman proves in his photo at the right, some landmarks - even New York's Statue of Liberty - can catch the eye in glorious b&w too.

BetterPhoto founder and author Jim Miotke explains the visual attraction of the classic visual medium: "The simplicity of black and white helps you focus on the important stuff. You can often turn a drab color shot into an amazing black and white. If you do your own darkroom work - traditional or digital - it opens up a world of magic and fun."

Of course, with his rendition of the Statue of Liberty that appears on this page, BP member Robert A. Simpson shows why color imagery is so often associated with fireworks. Such a striking splash of yellows and reds!

Freedom and Liberty for all!
© Robert A. Simpson
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Photographing Fireworks: Tips and Techniques

Arrive early in order to pick the best vantage point. Set the camera's focus to infinity (via Manual mode). Wide-angle or "normal" focal lengths are usually recommended for fireworks photography. Use a tripod and cable release (or remote cord). Turn off the auto-flash - it won't help for distant subjects. As for exposure, the articles and BP links listed below include excellent advice.

More thoughts from instructor/author Peter Burian:

*the great ship 2*
© Thomas McConville
All Rights Reserved

Resources on Fireworks Photography

BP founder Jim Miotke's how-to article:
Top Tips for Photographing Fireworks

Instructor/author Kerry Drager's article on fireworks photography:
4th of July Photos: A Celebration of Light and Color!

Instructor/author Peter K. Burian's article:
How to Get Great Fireworks Photos

Article by Smithsonian staff photographers:
Shooting Fireworks: Capture The Spectacle

Happy July 4th!
© Katherine Chan
All Rights Reserved

Type in the word "fireworks" in BetterPhoto's Search Site, and then check the QnA and photo-discussion sections. Some links to get you started:

For picture ideas and inspiration, check out BetterPhoto's collection of eye-catching images:
Fireworks Picture Page gallery

About Author Kerry Drager

Author: Kerry  Drager

To learn more about photography, explore the photography classes offered here at BetterPhoto.