Happy 4th of July weekend! This has always been one of Andrew and my favorite holidays. Usually we head up to the mountains for a few days to enjoy the activities, but this year we have a niece getting married on the 4th – so a bit more family functions here in Denver. But you can still bet we’ll be out Friday and Saturday nights taking in the fireworks – and of course photographing them too.

So in honor of the 4th, I thought I would provide 7 tips to help you take better fireworks pictures this year.

1. Choose your location. Chances are you’ll have the option to choose from several different fireworks displays in your local community. Choose one that gives you the perspective you are looking for. Do you want to include just the fireworks? Or do you want to include more in your horizon? Find out exactly where the fireworks will be shot from, and plan your location accordingly.

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2. Look for the perfect perspective. Fireworks are up in the sky, but if you want to include the horizon, you may need to elevate yourself to avoid the crowds. Arrive early to claim your territory, and get ready for the fun.

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3. Turn off your flash. I remember one wedding we photographed where a bridesmaid came up and asked us to take a photo of her and her boyfriend outside on the deck to capture the mountains behind them. Sounds easy, right? The problem was it was 10pm, and very dark outside. No flash in the world could be that magical. Flash is meant to highlight what is right in front of you. Your flash isn’t meant to highlight things hundreds of feet or even miles in the distance. So turn it off. Your goal with fireworks is to capture the beauty and magic of the light they provide.

4. Create a long exposure. Think about how long it takes for fireworks to head up into the sky, explode, and filter down into the streams that make them so beautiful. Several seconds? In order to capture that beauty, you have to set your shutter speed for several seconds too.

5. Use a tripod for a steady shot. Because you’ll be shooting each image at a higher shutter speed, it’s important to eliminate movement. A tripod will keep everything steady. Add a shutter release for even more stability.

6. Plan sequences. One of the thrills of watching fireworks is the anticipation. They launch several rounds. They zoom into the sky. They explode in different colors and different patterns. And fall back to the earth. Try photographing that entire sequence for some amazing shots, and a great way to create a collage of photographs.

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7. Keep shooting. If you’re new to shooting fireworks, try different things. Play with your shutter speed. Play with your position. Also watch for more than one display. Because the 4th is on a Saturday this year, I know there are displays Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at different locations. Try things on Friday, and then head back out on Saturday to try something new. Learn from your mistakes and expand on the things you did well.

Enjoy your weekend!

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