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It's almost time for New Years eve and the fireworks. Be ready to capture some amazing firework photos with these 6 tips!

Capturing the fireworks can be challenging and you don’t have a lot of time to fool around. When the clock is at 00:00 1 January, the most beautiful fireworks are being seen. You do the happy new year cheer and head outside to capture the most amazing colours.
Planning the shots will help you in a successful shoot.

I’ve had my share of failures before I had some really nice firework shots. That is why I want to share these 6 top tips with you so you are able to get some amazing shots next week!

Please share your shots with me on Instagram, tagging me (@martijn_kort) and #FireworksWithMartijn

Take awesome photos of fireworks!
Tip 1: Planning and preperation

Like all successful shoots, planning and preperation are important.

Prepare for the night by charing your batteries and keep them warm. Place your camera and the lens(es) you are going to use in a cool place, for instance the hallway. This will help in preventing the lens fogging up when you go outside from your warm house into the cold night.

Planning the shots is also an important aspect of having a successful shoot.
Know where you want to go, what kind of images are you looking for. Go there when it starts to get dark and look for compositions that you can use during the night. Visualise the final image. This helps in making decisions when the show is on.

Tip 2: Composition

You need to think about your composition. Just exploding fireworks are boring.

An image with just exploding fireworks isn’t really appealing.
You have to think about your composition and what you want to include in the frame. Think about these things as a foreground element:

  • Trees
  • Skyline
  • Houses
  • Your street
  • People watching the fireworks
  • Water

Try to find an element that will give your image something extra. Including water and thus the reflections of the fireworks is something that really works well when you don’t have a skyline or a nice tree line to include in your photos. Have a look online for the skyline shots of Dubai when they fire off the fireworks. There is so much going on in the photo, you keep looking.

Image by: Dany Eid (2018)

Tip 3: Camera Settings

Know your camera and how to adjust the settings in the dark!

First of all know how to change the shutter speed and ISO without looking at your camera. Find the buttons and combinations so you can quickly adjust these settings in the dark. We don’t have a lot of time to take the photos so we can’t loose any time looking at our camera settings.
Also before you go outside set the base settings!

To get you into the ballpark I’d recommend these settings: ISO 800, 2 seconds exposure at f/4 and work from there.


Your ISO should be in the range of 600 – 1200 depending how much light there is in the scene. I normally start at 600 and adjust from there. This is something that you can test before the fireworks start. Just go out and see how the resulting image looks with the ISO that you choose. Aim for an exposure of 2 seconds to start with.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed depends on a few factors.
What are you looking for in the final image? How should the firworks be seen and how much wind is there? I would say this is my go to list:

  • 1 – 2 seconds : This will give you a short burst when the fireworks explode. Also when there is a lot of wind this will keep the fireworks sharp
  •      4 seconds : This will make the fireworks tail visible and the explosion. 4 seconds will give you a nice and full fireworks in the sky
  •      8 seconds : Wide explosions and long tails. Be careful not to over expose the explosion!

Just play around with the shutter speed when out there.
Just watch that histogram for the highlights! If you go up with the exposure time the ISO should be dropped down or else you risk over exposing the fireworks.


You don’t need fancy and fast lenses to capture some amazing fireworks.
Any lens with f/4 will do. Depending on the image that I want to capture I normally shoot at f/4 to f/8 to keep everything in focus. As said before, it is important to include more into the frame than just the fireworks and the image need to be sharp. So there is no need for a fast f/2.8 lens.

Tip 4: Keep it steady!

Avoid blurry images by using a tripod and keep your camera steady.

6 tips to successful pictures of fireworks

Because we work with shutter speeds of 1 to 8 seconds it is important to keep the camera steady.
The easiest way of doing this is using a tripod and use the timer of the camera at 2 seconds. This way we also eliminate the shake of the camera when we press the shutter.

When you don’t have a tripod with you, make sure to rest the camera on some stable platform. This can be anything: on top of a wall, waste bin, the ground, you name it. Just make sure the camera is steady!

Tip 5: Know your camera

Make sure you can change the shutter speed and ISO in the dark, without looking at your camera.

Tip 6: Post production

After capturing the images the magic happens in post production.

First of all you where shooting RAW right?! Ok now load those images into the computer and start working them.
The basic things that mostly need your attention are:

  • white balance
  • adjust the white and black point
  • save the highlights and raise the shadows
  • selective color adjustments

Maybe you can even go one step further and combine a few shots in Photoshop.
If you set the layer blend mask to “Lighten” only the bright parts of that layer (the fireworks) are visible, so it is easy to combine a few firework shots together into one big final image.

Now the most important part is selecting your hero shots and publish them. Be critical and share your best!

Bonus tip: Filters

When photographing fireworks in a light polluted area or cityscape it can be beneficial to use a filter that cuts trough the haze and removes the orange color cast in your images.
One of the filters I use is the Nisi Natural Night Filter.

wereldhavendagen Rotterdam vuurwerk
There it is.

My 6 tips on taking some awesome photos of fireworks

I hope these 6 tips for better firework photos will help you to take your photography to the next level. Have fun shooting the fireworks next week and please share them either in the comments or tag me on instagram @martijn_kort #FireworksWithMartijn

Happy Holidays!


Author Martijn.Kort

Fine art photographer focusing on architecture and cityscapes as well as capturing unique moments from the cockpit. Writing about photography techniques and sharing reviews. Ambassador for both ZEISS Netherlands and Nisi Filters. If you like my work, consider following me on Instagram!

More posts by Martijn.Kort

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