Most people only get to see fireworks once or twice a year and here in the US, the 4th of July, or Independence Day is one of those times.

Getting good fireworks photos isn’t very difficult but can be a little daunting to beginning photographers. I thought I would put together a few tips to help you get better fireworks photos.

The most important part of shooting fireworks is to use a tripod.

Setting the camera on a tripod keeps the camera steady during the long exposure needed to capture the falling light trails. It is impossible to hand hold a camera steady for the 4 plus seconds needed to get a good sharp light trail.

Use manual focus to preset the focus to infinity.

This will keep the camera from trying to refocus when you push the shutter release button. You can check the focus when the first fireworks fly through the air by using the focus ring on the lens.

Set the camera to Manual mode, the ISO to 100 or 200 (depends on the lowest native setting for your camera), and the aperture to f/11.

The only setting to change at this point is the shutter speed. I start at 2 seconds and work up or down from there. For photos of just the fireworks, use as long a lens as possible to fill the frame with the fireworks. If the photo you want to capture is a fireworks display over a city skyline and you want to keep the skyline in the image, a wider-angle lens is necessary. A fireworks display gives you multiple chances to shoot the fireworks; use these chances to correct the exposure and framing between photos.

A cable release or remote is useful in this situation, because it reduces camera movement and lets you watch the fireworks so that you can trigger the shutter release when the rocket is at its apex. This lets the shutter stay open while the light trails are visible and helps in getting a bright, sharp photo of the firework.

After the first photo, check the exposure by looking at the picture on the LCD. If it looks underexposed, increase the shutter speed to 3 seconds and try again. If the scene looks overexposed, decrease the shutter speed to 1 second.

If you want to get some of the surrounding are in th frame, you will need to shoot wider and you will probably need to leave th shutter open longer so that the light from the fireworks will illuminate the surroundings.

Use the Bulb setting.

You can also manually keep the shutter open while the fireworks are visible. Just set the shutter speed to BULB, hold the shutter down when the rocket bursts, and release the shutter when the light trails start to fade.

The Grand Finale

There is usually a grand finale, which will have multiple color bursts all at the same time. This will be brighter than the single explosions so adjust the shutter speed accordingly or the photos will be overexposed.