Photographing fireworks: 8 tips for New Year's Eve

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

Cameras and accessories at SATURN

You can find photography equipment and services at SATURN .

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 expect the best results with a digital SLR camera – as long as you select 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 come with an automatic mode for photographing fireworks , which sets the various parameters independently.

In addition to a camera, a tripod is almost indispensable when photographing fireworks in the dark. 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.

Tripods for your camera Buy now at

2. Choose the right location


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


The bigger the explosion can be seen in the picture, the more impressive it looks. Image: © Pexels/Davidson Free Media 2021

A fixed focal length lens can prove to be a disadvantage on New Year's Eve. If the fireworks aren't just happening in one place, it's helpful to be able to zoom in and out . 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


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 to ISO values 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.

So that the black of the night sky is reproduced as noise-free as possible, you should ideally choose 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


Fireworks are almost always far away – the aperture setting therefore has little effect on the depth of field. Image: © Pixabay/svetlanabar 2021

Aperture affects not only the strength of the exposure, but also the depth of field. 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 ( smaller aperture value ) lets more light onto the sensor, which is basically 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


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".

An exposure time of a few seconds can be sufficient to photograph a single firework. However, you can also experiment with times of a minute or longer . Note, however, that too long an exposure time tends to lead to a restless and diffuse image. The so-called bulb function , which some cameras have, is helpful. This starts the exposure as soon as you press the shutter button and stops when you release it.

7. Focus correctly


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 refocus manually for every picture. It is enough to set the focus to infinity once. 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. If you keep feeling like you're missing the right moment, try the camera's continuous shooting function . 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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