How to Shoot Fireworks

Each year, my parents’ neighborhood gathers together to put on a show called “Neighborhood on Fire.” Each family brings some sugar (lots of homemade ice cream!) and their fireworks and puts out their blankets and chairs while some of the tween boys and their dads set up the fireworks in the street. Sharon’s homemade ice cream and Kevin’s patriotic music blaring from his car make this annual party hard to miss.

While we wait for the sun to go down, the children play with sparklers. Even though it is still light outside, I’ll still need a longer shutter speed to capture the movement from the kids: 1 sec @ f5.6, ISO 100.

Once magic hour is over, it’s time for the show. The finale has some “real” fireworks and in order to capture the magic in the sky, I need a fast enough exposure—and with the sun down, I need to increase the ISO too. My new “firework” exposure is: 1/100 @ f2.8, ISO 1600.

After the show is over and the brooms and dumpsters come out to clean up, my sister and her friends want to create more words with the leftover sparklers. I tell the girls to spell their letter backwards, as perfectly as possible, and set my exposure to: 4 sec @ f8, ISO 400. (See some more examples here.)

The night is over and I make one more round at the dessert table. Happy Fourth of July!


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