How to Photograph Fireworks with Before and After Examples!

Me Ra Koh

One of the best ways to teach is by example.  I’m excited to walk you through how to photograph fireworks with Before and After examples that will set you up for success this 4th of July!

One of the reasons I LOVE photography is that I am always a student.  I never stop learning.  Last year when the fireworks went off (yes, I keep these photo tip posts tucked away that long), I remember having a new awareness to capturing not only the fireworks in display but how the ground, trees, water, everything below, can make the story even richer .  You can point your camera at the night sky and capture the fireworks exploding.  But what you get is a fireworks display that is almost being swallowed up by the night’s sky.  I cropped the bottom third out of this photo to give you a Before type example.  We see the fireworks surrounded by the night’s sky, and the photo’s story is a bit one dimensional.

Learn how to photograph fireworks with before and after examples on

What you if you framed your photo in a way that added more dimension by including the silhouette of trees below, the water or ground underneath the fireworks display that is being lit up, even the rising moon in the distance if you are lucky!

Learn how to photograph fireworks with before and after examples on

See how much richer the story is with the bottom third filled with texture of trees and the lights reflecting on water versus just being all night sky?

Let’s unpack these photos with a new Photo Recipe that you can use no matter what type of camera you have!

WHEN:  the 4th of July!

PREP:  Find a point of view that will allow you to not only capture the fireworks in the night’s sky, but the ground/sea below too.    Next, create stability.  Some people like to use a tripod but not necessary.  You can either use a table top, or if you are lying in the grass, you can hold the camera between your knees and become your own tripod.

For P&S Users:  Turn your flash off.  Set your camera to Continuous Shooting mode so you capture every unfolding second of the fireworks display.  Many cameras also have an auto setting called Night Scene mode with a little moon or star icon.  This will automatically keep your shutter curtain open longer, so you get the ambient light (the colors of the fireworks and the light on the ground below) but will also fire a flash in the process to add some light to the image as a whole.

For DSLR Users:  Like the P&S User, turn off my flash and set my camera to Continuous Shooting mode.  Manual mode is my favorite way to go for fireworks!  Since my camera is going to be steady with little movement, if any, I set my ISO to 200.  I want the lower ISO for best color saturation.  My aperture was f/4.5 which is higher than I normally shoot because I want more detail in the fireworks display and the distant background.  You can even go higher in your f-stop, depending on how much detail you want.  My shutter speed was .8 sec.  Try setting your camera to what my settings were.  If you need more light, just slow down your shutter speed.  Try leaving it open for 1 second, 1.5 seconds long or even 2 seconds long.  If you need less light, you can speed up your shutter speed.

COMPOSE:  Experiment with both a vertical and horizontal format, but keep the Rule of Thirds in mind.  If you go with a vertical format, compose your frame so the fireworks are exploding in the top third and the water or ground are below in the bottom third.

CAPTURE:  My camera is always set to Center Focus.  I grab my focus, and if the subject of the photo is not in the center, I keep my shutter release button held half way down and reframe.  However, if you are setting up on a tripod, and you know that your fireworks are going to be in the top third of your frame, you could experiment with a upper third auto focus point to minimize movement of your camera while shooting.

Photo Tips for SPARKLER PHOTOS!!!

Want photo tips on how to photograph sparklers?  Read more here: Firework and Sparkler Photo Tips

Learn how to photograph fireworks with before and after examples on

Have a wonderful 4th of July everyone!  I invite you to post your fireworks photos on my FB page!  Would LOVE to see what you get!

Out of personal curiosity, how many of you have been following this blog since 2007 and remember that original post on fireworks photo tips?  Let me know in the comments!  Just for fun!







  1. Greta G says:

    I have! I think I discovered you around that time. I’ve learned so much from you over the past 5 years! (and can’t believe it took 4 to finally attend a Confidence workshop.)

  2. Wow Greta! That is so fun to hear!!! I’m so glad you got to a CONFIDENCE workshop too! Change is in the air, and Brian and I are not going to be doing as many which makes me a sad–even though change is good. But I’m so thankful for all the women we’ve been able to spend that special weekend with. It’s truly awe-mazing at how so many of you have taken off in confidence on several levels!

  3. I just reported this and tagged all my photography students from last year at co-op. so excited to see what they post on Thursday and Friday. Thanks MeRa!

  4. cathy rice says:

    I just found u tonite on pinterest… may become my new addiction! Thanks for the tips…I’ll try them out and see what happens.

  5. Jess Robertson says:

    I have! I can’t believe it’s been that long!

    And, Greta, it took me forever to get to a confidence workshop too! Just so glad I finally made it to one 🙂 after lusting over it year after year…haha!

  6. I just went and looked at your photos Jamie, WOWZER!!!! Great job girl!!!

  7. […] still been shooting. The other day I read a photo recipe from one of my FAVORITE photographers, Mera Koh, on my Facebook wall. She gave great tips on how to photograph fireworks. All the links with in the […]

  8. I followed your article and got some pretty good firework shots:) Thank You!