Highlands Ranch Fireworks Photography


Highlands Ranch will hold its 30th anniversary fireworks show this July 4th. This will be the culmination of a full day of Independence Day festivities, beginning with the HRCA Independence Day 5K at 8:00 a.m. and ending with the fireworks show at about 9:15 p.m. across from the Town Center.

You can get more details on all the Highlands Ranch activities for the day on the HRCA website.

Highlands Ranch Fireworks Photography

How to Photograph Fireworks

And speaking of fireworks! Aerial fireworks can be a little tricky to photograph. Like many things photography, it involves a certain amount of trial and error. I’ll save you some time with what’s works for me as a good starting point.

First, you need a camera that has a manual settings mode so you can manually set your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings. (Practically all modern digital SLR cameras and many advance digital pocket cameras will let you do this.)

You’re also going to need a tripod to mount your camera on that will hold your camera steady for up to 30 seconds or so.

These settings are a good starting point and are what were used for all of the photos on this page. These will work pretty well as long as your camera is pointed at the sky (no building lights in the frame).

  • Exposure Mode: Manual
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 15 Seconds (to catch the burst trails) :-)
  • f-stop: (aperture) f/22

Start with these settings, mount your camera on your tripod and point it towards the part of the sky where the fireworks will be exploding. Don’t try to zoom in too close or you may miss the explosions.

Setting the shutter speed to 15 seconds should let you catch the trails of the mortars as they are launched into the sky and as they explode. My experience with timing on this is to press the shutter as soon as I hear a mortar being launched.

After your first photo, and without moving the camera’s position, check the LCD screen and see if your direction or zoom needs to be adjusted. It may take a few shots to get things dialed in but once it is, you can just click, wait 15 seconds for the exposure to finished and then get ready for the next barrage.

Much of this is luck but using the settings above takes at least that part of the guessing out of it. I really enjoy photographing fireworks. The patterns burning across the sky are always interesting and the colors are beautiful. And there’s the big element of surprise with every frame. And, every one you shoot is going to be a totally unique photograph so it’s different than photos where everybody photographs the same rock with the same background! :-)

Highlands Ranch Aerial Fireworks Photography

Here’s some more fun! Try experimenting with the colors in the photos like in the blue fireworks photo above. If you enjoy editing your photos on your computer, try opening a copy (you don’t want to ruin the original) of one of your favorites and using your software programs color controls (like hue or saturation) to change the colors.

Fireworks photo showing original colors.Highlands Ranch Fireworks Photography

The photo on the left shows the original colors of the fireworks. The one on the right has had the “hue” changed with Photoshop. Hmm – I’m thinking sort of a signal for the Green Lantern! At any rate, it’s fun, easy to do and create some really interesting alternate photos.

Have a great holiday wherever you are and happy shooting!

Highlands Ranch photographer David Sutphin specializes in high school senior pictures and family portraits. He is availalbe for portraits in his studio or on location in Highlands Ranch, Douglas County and the greater Denver area.


I had my head shots taken by David and it was a great experience. A good photographer needs to be able to get the best out of his live subjects and David is able to do that. With a relaxing atmosphere and the people person mentality David creates this environment to achieve this success for both photographer and customer. Great work

Paul H.

Lakewood, Colorado

Hey David! Thanks for taking my senior pictures. I had a very good time it was real blast. I think all of those pictures looked really good. Thanks for making something of mine that’s not very fun into something that I really enjoyed. Thanks for everything! Sincerely Kellen

Kellen K.

Highlands Ranch, Colorado

David did my 9 year old daughter’s head shots. David is incredibly welcoming and professional. His studio is beautiful. My daughter loved having her own dressing room! David is great at relating to young children and making them feel comfortable during their shoot. David is an expert in his use of lighting and color. He captured my daughter’s personality and various looks perfectly. We are thrilled with the final product and so is my daughter’s agent.

Danielle S.

Parker, Colorado

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