Long Exposures at Disney for fireworks and others stuff at Night.

As the sun sets on Mouse Land a new opportunity for taking photos which other will pass. In other words you might have the ability to take a photo with out much distraction of people sitting on the bench next to that Buzz Light Year topiary.

There are three settings on your camera and two additional tools that will help you get nice pictures when it turn dark.

Camera settings:

1) ISO setting – this is sensitivity to light. The higher the number the more the camera can make out in dim light however the details become more smeared.

2) Shutter Speed – The duration you leave the camera open to accept the light coming in.s

3) The Aperture Setting – The depth of field or how much of a scene will be in focus.

Camera Plus is an iPhone app which I use and here is a good tutorial they wrote on these three settings


The PDF is here iPhone Exposure Tips


1) Tripod, Bean Bag, Trash Can, Fence Post – anything you can use to keep you camera still while you take long exposures.

2) A Flash, an LED Flashlight – anything you can do to add light to the scene.

So during the day time you will find people all over the park like this.

Notice my ISO is 200 and my shutter speed is 1/80 of a sec I can hand hold the camera.


Now at night time I brought my iPhone and a tripod. Since I have the tripod I wanted the lowest ISO setting so the image would be as clean (or as clear) as can be. The iPhone has only one aperture mode so you are left to adjust the shutter and iso settings. These photos were taken with Tap Tap Camera Plus software it also limits my shutter speed to a max of 1/2 of a sec.

Notice ISO is 160 the iPhone can go as low as 32. However since I can not raise the Shutter speed any more I was left to compensate by raising the ISO.


I still was not happy with the results so I set a delay of 5 sec timer on the photo. Then I clicked the button and took my LED flashlight and moved back and light the topiary just a little more. Notice the Settings have not changed all that changed was the Flashlight.

Note: The reason I could do this is two fold. 1

1) The 1/2 sec exposure gives time for the flashlight to add light at minimal iso.

2) the tripod and timer gives me time to move else where with the LED flashlight.


As you can see I did not have any other people sitting around at night.

Another scenario this time you will see how having to use High ISO vs low ISO and external light make a difference

ISO 1250 on the phone


ISO 1250 on the iPhone Full Size you can see the smear in the detail

OK there really was nothing else I could do here. I maxed out my camera. I can not add a longer exposure !



Maxed out your can see the detail in the leaves due to the low ISO of 200. Note its not the lowest ISO but I did not have any brighter light and I as maxed out on my shutter speed so the compromise is better than the above photo.


Now the same principles are true for taking fireworks images The big difference is we can not control the Fireworks or the Flashlight is you wish. So we have three camera settings: shutter, ISO and aperture.

In most cases you max out the ISO the lowest setting. The Aperture between 5.6 and 8 and your shutter speed.

The most basic situation is hand holding your camera and taking fireworks images.

The fireworks are bright so your limitation her is how long can you hold the camera steady.

You end not bring able to hold the camera long enough to capture a complete firework going off.

1/40 of a sec. Techniques : Hold you breath and let it out slow at the end press the button. Brace your body against a pole, a garbage can. Brace the camera on a garbage can, Pole or railing.


Notice at F 2.7 you can see the detail of the fireworks as you close the aperture (Raise the number) You will lose the detail thats why you can can’t just max out a F22.


At this type of picture taking TIMING is CRITICAL since you are open for less than on sec

Here is what happened over the last 3 sec of this fireworks life. These were three separate photos I took once it fired off till it died.


You can get lucky with shots like this one.


Detail is preset in the lower aperture setting of 2.7


So now I have a tripod and I can keep the camera still long what can I do next.

I was not expecting to take photos but happened to walk outside and rested the camera on a fence post

Longer exposure and higher Aperture. Notice the detail is not the same over 3 sec exposure

Also since it was not on a tripod i could not frame it like I wanted to I did that by cropping the image later.


Notice enough time to capture the lasers in the sky and more than one firework. Notice the more you close the aperture (raise the number) the more fireworks turn into streaks.


So I want to capture a longer duration. Well there is a limit of how much light you can capture before it paints your whole image in light. consider if you had a blank plate and started laying out candy in streaks light fireworks. At some point you end up with a plate of candy and you lose the image you were creating.

The example here is from a handheld shot but due to the lower aperture many fireworks going off at the same time you end up with a big mess of white.


Same setting a sec later less light


The solution is placing a filter on your lens. A Neutral Density filter is like the old day when they gave you a piece of dark film to look at an eclipse. Heavy Sunglasses.

ISO 100 10 Sec duration and ND filter



Do for a longer duration you can add multiple ND filters but you end up loosing detail the because the longer duration implies more light and you need to balance that with aperture.

The best solution is taking two 8 sec photos and stacking them into one image.




You still sendup with good detail and a good duration

Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Iphone