Photographing fireworks: 8 tips for New Year’s Eve


Year after year they elicit an “Ah!” and “Oh!” – Fireworks have fascinated people for centuries. But if you want to photograph fireworks, you should not tackle it unprepared. Here you will find eight useful tips for perfect pictures from New Year’s Eve.

1. Take the right accessories with you

Of course, smartphone cameras and compact digicams can now also take good photos. However, the devices reach their limits in poor lighting conditions because their optics are comparatively small. And New Year’s fireworks are fired at night. You can therefore get the best results with a digital SLR camera expect – as long as you choose the optimal settings. For cameras without a wide range of manual setting options, it can be worth taking a look at the recording modes. Some camera models bring one Automatic mode for photographing fireworks with, which determines the various parameters independently.

Except for a camera when taking pictures of fireworks in the dark tripod almost essential. Without a tripod, most of the pictures would be blurred, because photos have to be exposed longer in the dark. If you get shaky pictures despite the tripod, this may be due to pressing the shutter button. Remote releases can help – these are available with a cable or wireless radio transmission. If you don’t have a remote release, you can use the camera’s self-timer function. However, this must then be matched to the explosion of the rocket. This is quite difficult in practice.

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2. Choose the right location

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Ideally, it is not too bright where you set up your camera.

Image: © Pexels/Jonathan Petersson 2021

The optimal location for photographing fireworks is at ground level, so that the tripod stands securely, and not too brightly lit. If there is light from the side of the camera, for example from a street lamp, it becomes more difficult to photograph into the dark night sky. Unwanted reflections on the photo could be the result. If you want to prevent this, you can either build a cover out of cardboard or stand between the camera and the light source when taking the picture.

3. Choose the right focal length

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The bigger the explosion can be seen in the picture, the more impressive it looks.

Image: © Pexels/Davidson Free Media 2021

On Fixed focal length lens can prove to be a disadvantage on New Year’s Eve. If the fireworks do not only take place in one place, it is helpful zoom in and out to be able to Ideally, the fireworks do not fill the entire picture. However, if it is too far away, it quickly looks lost against the black background of the night sky. Here the golden mean ensures the best picture result.

Especially on New Year’s Eve in the city there are probably fireworks all around you. In such situations, a wide-angle lens is usually the best choice because it allows you to capture a greater variety of rockets and streaks of light in one image.

4. Determine the correct ISO value

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The background becomes noise-free with ISO 100 or 200.

Image: © Pexels/Trung Nguyen 2021

Surely you have heard of different ISO values. The choice of the value influences the light sensitivity of the image sensor. You can find a detailed description in our guide on the subject ISO value in photography. When it comes to fireworks photography: The lower the ISO number, the better. Because with increasing light sensitivity, the image noise also increases.

Ideally, you should choose so that the black of the night sky is reproduced with as little noise as possible ISO 100 or 200. With compact cameras, ISO 800 should under no circumstances be exceeded, modern DSLR models may also deliver acceptable results beyond that. But the lower the ISO value, the higher the contrast in the result.

5. Set the right aperture value

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Fireworks are almost always far away – the aperture setting therefore has little effect on the depth of field.

Image: © Pixabay/svetlanabar 2021

The aperture affects not only the strength of the exposure, but also on the depth of field off. Since fireworks are usually very far away, the aperture setting hardly plays a role in sharpness in most camera-lens combinations as long as the focus is set to “infinity”.

There are two other factors that are more important than depth of field when it comes to aperture in fireworks: speed and reproduction of highlights.

An open aperture (small aperture value) brings more light onto the sensor, which is always an advantage in the dark. For long shutter speeds (see next section), however, it can be more helpful for fireworks to close the aperture wide. A wide closed aperture (from about aperture 16) also has the effect on most lenses that highlights are reproduced as sharper, multi-pointed stars. Try out different variations and let your creativity run free!

You can’t rely on most automatic systems for both aperture and exposure time, since fireworks are too short, erratic and have too different brightness levels. Digital photography allows you to try out different variants and delete unsuccessful ones in an uncomplicated way.

6. Choose the right exposure time

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Depending on the color of the explosion, a different aperture value can make sense.

Image: © Pixabay/monsterpong09 2021

A third factor in addition to ISO and aperture, which determines the lighting of the images, is the exposure time. Here you have a lot of leeway when photographing fireworks. Basically, fireworks need longer exposure times than you will be used to from most other areas. The longer you expose, the longer rocket gradients can be seen in the photo. This effect is also known as “painting with light”.

To photograph a single firework, an exposure time of a few seconds already sufficient. But you can also use times from a minute or more experiment. Note, however, that too long an exposure time tends to lead to a restless and diffuse image. The so-called is helpful bulb functionwho own some cameras. This starts the exposure as soon as you press the shutter button and stops when you release it.

7. Focus correctly

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It is difficult to focus on objects in the foreground and background.

Image: © Pexels/Frank Cone 2021

If the camera only has autofocus, the photo of the fireworks will probably disappoint. Because the autofocus usually takes too long to focus in poor lighting conditions. The explosion is then already over. But don’t worry: you don’t have to for every picture refocus manually. It’s enough, the focus once to infinity set. With this, all objects that are far away should be in focus, even if they are not all at the same distance from you.

8. Trigger at the right time

Now all you really have to do is press the shutter button – or better: the remote shutter release. Since the explosions of the fireworks can never be predicted exactly, there is always a little bit of luck involved. The probability of taking a good photo increases with the number of attempts. Do you keep feeling like you’re missing the right moment? test the burst function the camera. If you pull the shutter yourself, remember that light travels faster than sound.

Of course, as a photographer, you only have limited options when it comes to choosing a perspective. It’s different with a drone. The following video shows in an impressive way what fireworks look like up close:


  1. Due to the low light conditions, fireworks are best photographed with an SLR camera.
  2. Be sure to use a tripod and a remote shutter release if you have one.
  3. The tripod should be on a level surface that should not be too brightly lit.
  4. The ISO value should be as low as possible, ISO 100 or ISO 200 is best.
  5. The aperture value depends above all on your desired exposure time and the desired representation of highlights.
  6. You can experiment with the exposure time to capture beautiful rocket gradients.
  7. Disable autofocus and choose an infinity setting in manual mode instead.
  8. Find the right time to pull the trigger – and use the continuous shooting function to do so.

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