Happy 4th of July!!

Happy 4th weekend! Who is shooting firework this week!?

I shot  the first photograph as a cover of Newsweek.  This was shot on film (remember that?)  However, the principles of shooting fireworks are the same, whether you are shooting digital or film. This photograph was shot at ISO 50 with a long exposure, in order to get the burst of light off Lady Liberty.  

Happy Independence Day!!!

© Rick Friedman

© Rick Friedman

Exposure: Set your camera on Manual.  Use a low ISO for the best quality image.  Try to use an  f-stop of f8 or f11. Your shutter speed will determine how long the trail is that you capture from the fireworks. Colored fireworks will give you vibrant trails while white fireworks tend to overexpose your image. My preference is an approximate shutter speed ranging from 4 to 15 seconds.  Another trick is to set your camera on bulb, lock your shutter open using your cable release and when there is no blast of light hold a dark piece of cardboard in front of your lens.  When the next blast occurs, remove the black cardboard.  This will enable you to record multiple blasts on a single frame.

Fireworks over Statue of Liberty shot for the cover of Newsweek.   

Eliminate camera shake (movement): As a result of the slow shutter speeds, you need to use a tripod, or something to stabilize your camera.  I also recommend using a cable release which allows you not to touch the camera when releasing the shutter to eliminate camera movement. You could also weigh down your camera for greater stability if its a windy day using a heavy object, like your camera bag, attached to the hook under your tripod.


July 4th Firework over Charles River shot from Massachusetts Avenue bridge between Cambridge and Boston.  This is shot at ISO 100, at f-stop 8 for 6 seconds

Framing: Frame your fireworks with its surrounding. Having a foreground or a background places your photograph and adds more dimension.


July 4th Fireworks in Boston .  This is shot with ISO 100,  an F stop  of 10 and  a shutter speed  of 4 seconds.


The photo below is the end of summer Fireworks at Oak Bluff,  on Martha's Vineyard.  I was part of the White House Press Pool to cover President Obama's summer vacation.  As we were on hold as the president was in seclusion, I noticed a display of pyrotechnics.  I did not have a tripod with me, nor I did not have a cable release. I propped my camera on a fence to photograph the fireworks! Rules are only guidelines, you can still photograph fireworks without a tripod, and you just need to be flexible and creative with your method... just like any photography...!

Happy Summer Shooting!