Different Technique to Shoot Fireworks

 In Blog
Defocused Fireworks

I recently saw a great tutorial on PetaPixel by David Johnson detailing a novel way to shoot fireworks. I thought the results were quite fun, so I decided to bring my tripod and camera to a local fireworks display held each year on Arlington Pond in Salem, NH to see what I could come up with.

My Gear

  • Nikon D850
  • Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Manfrotto tripod


The author of the tutorial used a neutral density filter, but I didn’t have one that fit my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, so I set my ISO at 100 and adjusted the aperture until I was happy with the exposure. This exposure, of course, didn’t work well when several bright fireworks were set off simultaneously, but most of the shots I took were fine (up until the finale which was so intense I just stopped taking pictures and watched the show).

  • ISO 100
  • f/4 to 7 (most were at 5.6)
  • Exposure 1 to 2 seconds (most were 1.3)

Taking the Shot

As the tutorial details, I timed opening the shutter as the firework made its way through the air just before it exploded. Then I either started with the lens in focus and dialed it out during the explosion, or the opposite, starting out of focus and rotating the focus ring to bring the lens into focus as the fireworks spread out. Both approaches produce interesting results.


It’s been fun seeing people’s reactions to the shots, however, everyone has a different take on what they like. That makes sense given how abstract the shots are. It also means it would be tough to “know” ahead of time what kind of shots would be “best.”

Ready for Next Time

I didn’t take much time during the show to seriously evaluate what I was capturing, but now that I’ve had the chance to consider the shots and how they were produced, I feel confident that I could quickly dial in the type of shots that were most interesting to me.

Defocused Fireworks
Defocused Fireworks

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