5 ideas for creative fireworks photos

5 ideas for creative fireworks photos by April Nienhuis

by April Nienhuis

5 ideas for creative fireworks photos by April Nienhuis

Warm sun on my shoulders, the smell of the grill, cold green grass between my toes, and the laughter of excited children all scream 4th of July to me.  Oh yeah, and fireworks too!  Fireworks are beautiful to watch and fun to photograph (am I the only one that loves the smell of them too?).  In the past, we’ve shared the basic techniques for photographing fireworks and today I want to encourage you to have some creative fun when shooting them.

1. Don’t fear imperfection.

You may be aiming for the perfect formation in your fireworks but don’t completely disregard the ‘mistakes’.  Sometimes not having that perfect shutter speed can result in a pretty ribbon-like effect that will add a little variety to your photographic memories of the event.

extra slow shutter speed fireworks photo by April Nienhuis

2.  Break out your ‘fun’ lenses.

Don’t think that long lenses are the only option this 4th.  Playing with a fun lens like the Lensbaby can create some fun distortion in the fireworks.  Fireworks shows tend to be long so bring along an extra lens or two to change things up.

lensbaby firework pic by April Nienhuis

3.  Forget focus.

Okay, maybe not entirely but go ahead and see what you can come away with by shooting completely out of focus for a few frames.  The vibrant colors and streaks will still scream fireworks even if nothing’s in focus.

out of focus firework picture by April Nienhuis

out of focus sparklers picture by Kristin Dokoza*photo by Kristin Dokoza

4.  Focus elsewhere.

Instead of shooting completely out of focus, consider focusing on something in the foreground for context.  Watching fireworks is a magical time for children and including them in the frame can freeze quite the memory and tell a story that we can all relate to.

child watching fireworks picture by Jo Lien*photo by Jo Lien

5.  Don’t stop.

Don’t stop shooting when the fireworks are fizzling out.  Sure, the big explosions are fun to photograph but capturing a fizzling flame as it falls to the ground grabs a new view of the show.  It’s also a great closing picture for anyone scrapbooking or making an album of their holiday.

dying firework photograph by April Nienhuis

So go ahead, have a little extra fun when photographing fireworks this weekend.  You may just like what you get!

April Nienhuis, Oklahoma
Director of Online Media | CMU Instructor
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Being a second shooter for the past six years has encouraged April Nienhuis to find a creative approach to photography. While the main photographer works her magic posing and taking the more timeless images, April searches for unique perspectives and compositions that will be complimentary. As much as she enjoys fun and somewhat quirky imagery, her work tends to elicit a tranquil factor that many find soothing yet mysterious. Not believing in tying yourself down to one style, she loves a bit of everything – color and black and white, natural and artificial light, traditional portraiture along with the more abstract. April is also the instructor for CMU’s workshop Shooting 202: Exploring Creative Photography. Other than photography, April likes to cook, read, decorate and organize.

Read all photography tutorials by April Nienhuis.


  • Ruks says:

    Thanks for sharing these tips. specially about using the LB for fireworks!! :) will try it tomm!

  • Love these! I played around on the 4th myself with getting some out of focus shots. Definitely a fun subject to play around with! Every shot is different!

  • KimG says:

    Oh I have plenty not in focus! LOL We were so far away from the fireworks this year (my boys’ first since they’ve been old enough to stay up that late) that we couldn’t even hear them. Very weird that way. Next year when we are home I will revisit this post so I can get some better shots. This year it was all about the “first time” for me…and getting my shot for the scavenger hunt! 😉

  • Jennifer B says:

    I wish I had read this prior to the 4th, as now I wish I had some shots of my kids watching the fireworks. I was so focused on trying to get shots of the actual fireworks, I didn’t think of anything else. Oh well. Next year!

  • Margy B says:

    Thanks, April. Especially liked the suggestion to use a “Fun Lense”.

  • Krisanne says:

    I accidentally ended up with some different images this year because I had a pretty long lens with me, but we’re in a new town at a new fireworks show and I had NO IDEA how close we were going to be to the explosions! It was so fun to just go with it and have fun….

  • Alison says:

    These were awesome tips.
    Here is one of my favourites.

  • Kelly says:

    Tried some of these! lots of fun! First time using taking pictures of fireworks.

  • Davina says:

    April, thank you for this post! I loved being able to reference this article on the 4th when I was setting up my tripod. Some of my favorite shots were the ones where I deliberately shot out of focus. Thanks for the creative reminder and nudge!

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