Capturing Fireworks | Creative Shoot

Capturing Fireworks

Snoqualmie, Wa

"... And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there..."

Erin Aasland Photographer 4th of July Red Flower Fireworks


Happy 4th !!

Hope everyone had a relaxing and fulfilled 4th!  One thing I love about the 4th of July, is being able to capture the fireworks.  It is such a creative break away from all the barbecuing and festivities.  Easy to get lost in the booms + colors, making you wonder just how intense it must have been back when our nations anthem was being created.

So, I thought I would write a quick journal entry for anyone who might be interested in how I capture these images!

Erin Aasland Photographer 4th of July Pink Green Fireworks

Camera Settings

  • Manual Focus  |  this keeps the auto focus from trying to search for a focal point on each shot -- set it to near infinity
  • Aperture : F16  |  this allows more of the sky to be in focus because fireworks won't be going off in exactly the same spot every time, and I want them all in focus
  • ISO : 200  |  given I lowered the shutter speed to be able to capture the fireworks, a low ISO provides less grain on your images and balances more light to enter the lens -- depending on the lighting situation, I may drop this down to 100 if there are more fireworks being set off in the same spot.
  • Shutter Speed : 2" seconds |  this allows as much light as possible to enter the lens -- and again, depending on the light,  I may adjust this.

These settings are just a base point for where I capture fireworks.  Depending on your location, other light sources (such as city buildings), and how spread out the fireworks are -- you may need to adjust your settings accordingly.  



  • 35 mm lens  |  my city puts on a fireworks show in the community park, so we can get a close view!
  • Tripod  |  keeps a steady hand for the long exposure
  • Remote Shutter Release  |  helps with camera shake when pressing the shutter release, plus lets you watch outside of the viewfinder and click as needed.

Now these last two items are not necessarliy needed, depending how you want your final images to look.  I found my tripod to be too limiting, as I like to use a shutter drag technique to make trails with the fireworks. The second image (above) was taken with a tripod, but the remainder of the images were handheld.

Erin Aasland Photographer 4th of White Wing Fireworks
Erin Aasland Photographer 4th of July star dust Fireworks


What is Shutter Drag ?

Shutter Dragging is a way to create motion blur in your images.  When I shot film long ago, it would be similar to "panning" with your moving subject.  Basically, as you press the shutter button, you move your camera along with the direction of your subject.  This keeps your subject in focus while everything else becomes blurred. Depending how open you keep the shutter + how fast the subject is moving, the more motion blur you can get.  

Erin Aasland Snoqualmie Photographer Fireworks White and Green cloud burst
EAasland Blog Fireworks 1.jpg
Erin Aasland Snoqualmie Photographer Fireworks Blue Trails and Yellow burst
Erin Aasland Snoqualmie Photographer Fireworks white trails with green
Erin Aasland Snoqualmie Photographer Fireworks rainbow trails
Erin Aasland Snoqualmie Photographer Fireworks Red swirl white trails


Get Creative 

Being a light seeker, this makes me geek out a bit... seeing how the light, and lack of, can be manipulated.  Insert spastic jumping celebration.  I can't help it.  lol

You can't learn unless you start doing, so get out there and try something new!  The end result can be quite beautiful! 



to see more of my portraiture work, click below

Erin Aasland Photographer 4th of July Burst Fireworks