Rockets’ Red Glare: How to Photograph Fireworks

Fourth of July celebrations often end with a firework extravaganza that captivates us all with its awesome beauty. So be prepared to “ooh” and “ah” along with the crowd. And, if you’re like many of us, plan to have your camera ready to capture the “rockets red glare.”

What’s the best way to take “great” firework photos? According to Chuck DeLaney, Dean of the New York Institute of Photography (NYI), the world’s largest photography school, it’s easy if you do a couple of simple things. “Most of all you need a steady camera, a long exposure, and medium speed ISO setting,” DeLaney explains.


First, you’ll want to take a time-exposure. If you have an SLR camera, this should be no problem. Many point-and-shoot cameras have a special Fireworks setting, but if the camera you are using doesn’t, try to “fool” the camera into keeping the shutter open. Here’s how: When you see a rocket shoot skyward, press the shutter-button. The darkness of the sky should cause your camera to keep the shutter open for a time-exposure, and you can end up with a splendid picture.
What about using a single-use “cardboard” disposable camera? NYI says, forget it! These cameras usually have a fixed shutter speed, and you can’t “fool” them into doing the right thing no matter what you do.


Second, and equally important, since you are taking a time-exposure, your camera should be on a solid, unmoving base throughout the exposure. A tripod is best. If you don’t have a tripod, try bracing your camera against some solid structure – for example, a wall, a post, or a railing. They’re not as good as a tripod, but they’re better than hand-holding your camera. And hand-holding is the road to disaster – no one likes blurry fireworks photos.

Third, to add an extra-special touch to your picture, try to include something on the ground to give a sense of location to the firework display in the sky. For example, across the bottom of your frame you might show silhouettes of the crowd, or a statue (George Washington on horseback?), or the skyline of thecity. This one trick will do more to make your fireworks pictures stand out than any other single thing you can do. “There are some special do’s and don’ts that will help digital photographers get the best results,” notes DeLaney. “We
written a special article just to address those issues.”


For lots more advice on how to take “great” fireworks pictures, and some great fireworks photos, visit or read the other photo tips on the New York Institute of Photography (NYI) Web site at

Reprinted with permission from the New York Institute of Photography
Photos by Lau

By Laura

I started photography as a hobby in 2005, during college. My passion slowly became a more important part of my life since 2008. Because of using a combination of my photographic knowledge, with those of internet marketing, I like to call myself a "photomarketer".

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