How To: This Easy Photo Trick Makes Fireworks Look Like Brilliant Sky Creatures

This Easy Photo Trick Makes Fireworks Look Like Brilliant Sky Creatures

Anyone who does a lot of photography knows that the right exposure can make all the difference in the world. Taking a picture of something in motion requires a long exposure, so if you've ever wondered why your fireworks photos never quite turn out right, your shutter speed could be the key. Photographer David Johnson decided to put a twist on the classic long-exposure fireworks photo.

Image via David Johnson

Normally, when people take photos of fireworks displays, they just set a long exposure for somewhere over 3 seconds or use bulb mode to gauge the exposure time by sight. Pretty simple, if you know what you're doing.

By refocusing during the shots, Johnson was able to uniquely capture these strange and utterly beautiful photos, which make fireworks look more like flowers or sea urchins (sky urchins?). And this is done all in about 1 second, 2 max.

Images via David Johnson

"Each shot was about a second long, sometimes two," Johnson told Colossal. "I'd start out of focus, and when I heard the explosion I would quickly refocus," giving them depth and volume.

Image via David Johnson

You can check out Johnson's website for more of his work, and you can find the rest of his fireworks photos here.

There are tons of cool things you can do with long-exposure photography. It makes for awesome photos of moving water and stars, and for something a little more fun, try using long exposures to make light paintings with flashlights or sparklers.

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Cover photo by David Johnson


Great find! As someone who spends a lot of time with both fireworks and a camera this was a cool trick to learn.

I dig it, too. I might try experimenting using this trick on other long-exposure subjects and see what happens, since I don't really see a lot of fireworks myself.

is it done with auto focus because id be clumsy and slap the camera or bump it and screw up the whole shot

No it would need to be done manually. A heavy tripod will keep the camera steady and help you get good shots more consistently, but it could be done by hand also by propping the camera against a firm surface. Just be prepared to only get one good shot out of 10. There's nothing wrong with taking a lot of pictures for a few gems.

Focus blur! That is quite clever! I love taking long exposures of fireworks, and the best I've taken was on a tripod with a Canon Powershot A630. It has been the best camera for macro photography and long exposure. With lightning or fireworks, you have to anticipate the explosion, but if you do it right, you can get photos like this:

I originally uploaded this photo to in 2008, and ever since then, it's been a favorite all across the internet. You'd be surprised what you can do with your camera if you take the time to understand it.

This is gorgeous! I've never played around with long exposure shots since I'm not really much of a photographer but after seeing this shot I may have to try. Thanks for sharing!

Amazing shot. Love it.

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