Photographing Fireworks on July 4th

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Some photographic subjects, such as fireworks or lightening, can’t easily be captured using any of the standard exposure metering systems but there are some cameras, including some from Olympus, that offer a Fireworks Mode that slows the shutter speed and set the focusing point to infinity. Tip: You can do all that yourself if you don’t have a fireworks mode.


Caption: I shot the above Winter Solstice fireworks shot in Acapulco using a Leica D-Lux 2 in Starry Night mode producing an exposure of 15 seconds at f/4.9 and ISO 800. Camera was rested on a concrete block wall and tripped using the Leica’s self-timer.

Here are the steps I use to photograph fireworks but I am far from being an expert on this subject:

  • First switch the camera from Autofocus to Manual focus.
  • Next, go into manual exposure mode (M) and select BULB as your shutter speed.
  • Third, pick an aperture that’s somewhere in the middle for the range for lens you’re going to use; it’s probably going to be the “sweet spot” around f/8 or whatever.

With these settings, the shutter will stay open as long as the shutter release is depressed. Since this technique increases the danger of camera movement, you should/can mount the camera on a sturdy tripod to minimize getting a bunch of squiggly lines in the photograph and use a remote control device or a cable release to trip the shutter. But you can always hand hold too and go for the squiggly look.

happy-canada-day-canada-flag-graphicTip: One of the biggest mistakes people make is shooting fireworks before it’s too dark; heck I did that for years and got really crappy-looking washed out images. So be patient.