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Metering for Fireworks

4th of July celebrations are always fun to photograph, especially the fireworks. But how do you take a meter reading of fireworks? They don’t hang around long enough.

Although they look tricky, fireworks actually expose themselves. With your camera mounted on a tripod, set your ISO to 100 and your aperture at f5.6. All you have to do is keep your shutter open long enough to capture two to four fireworks bursts. You can use a bulb setting or set the shutter speed at five to ten seconds.  The fireworks will take care of the rest. If you leave the shutter open too long, multiple bursts will stack up on top of each other, overexposing the shot.


© 2007 Chuck Place, Los Angeles DPA Instructor

This particular image was produced in St. Augustine, Florida. I used part of the old Castillo de San Marcos and some palm trees to give the image a sense of place. I metered the fort, which was lit with artificial light, picking an exposure of f5.6, to expose the fireworks, and a shutter speed of five seconds, to expose the fort properly. Each exposure gave me different groupings of fireworks with the same properly exposed fort in the foreground. I just picked the best group of explosions.


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