Fireworks Photography Tips for Walt Disney World

Fireworks Photography Tips for Walt Disney World - Happily Ever After

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Fireworks are one of the highlights of any Walt Disney World vacation. Whether you’re battling the Empire at Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks, watching classic Disney characters in Fantasmic!, celebrating cultures from around the world at IllumiNations, or finding your Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom, fireworks are a perfect way to end any magical day at Disney. Fireworks also make for some of the most spectacular photo opportunities at Disney, if you know how to best capture the experience.

Location, Location, Location

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: location is key to so many things in life. This is especially true with fireworks photography. Nothing can ruin a perfect photograph quite like a well-placed flagpole, street light, a cell phone held high, mouse ears too close to the front of your camera, and those trees you hoped wouldn’t block the view of the fireworks.

For most Disney fireworks shows, you’ll want to be directly in front of the action. The new Happily Ever After nighttime spectacular and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular both feature projections as part of the show, so you’ll want to be as close to center as you can get so you’ll have a good view of the projections. Anywhere around World Showcase is usually a pretty good spot for IllumiNations since the show takes place in the middle of the lagoon. The design of the Hollywood Hills Ampitheater allows a pretty good view of Fantasmic! from just about any seat. As with any show, ideally you want center, but considering those seats are reserved for dining packages and dessert parties, the seats on either side have great views as well. Just be sure to sit about halfway back in your section, as you (and your camera) may get wet if you sit any closer!

My favorite spots for fireworks viewing and photography are spots next to rails. If your camera is set up behind a rail, more than likely, you’re not going to have its view blocked by other guests, as they will be several feet in front of your camera. If you do find your view obstructed, try angling your camera up a little. This won’t change the photo’s composition too much and may just be enough to get you a clear view of the show. This also works for cell phones, so you don’t have to hold your phone up obstructing the view of those behind you.

If you’ll be visiting Magic Kingdom for a special holiday fireworks celebration, you may want to consider a location off of Main Street with a unique view of the show. These holiday shows usually don’t feature as many projections on the Castle, so the majority of the show takes place in the sky and can be seen from just about anywhere in the park. Try watching the show from Fantasyland or Tomorrowland. The photo below of Disney’s Celebrate America! A Fouth of July Concert in the Sky was taken from Liberty Square. I love how this photo captures the castle from the side, with the water below.

Arrive Early

No matter which viewing location you choose, be sure to arrive at least an hour early. During busier times of year, you may need to arrive even earlier to claim a great spot. When my husband and I viewed Happily Ever After on July 2nd, we claimed our spot over an hour and half prior to the show. Even arriving this early, it still took a while to find a good spot still available.

Fireworks Photography Tips for Walt Disney World - Disney's Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky

Use A Tripod

If you want a Disney fireworks photo with brilliant colors, you’re going to need a tripod. Keep in mind, you’ll need one that folds up small enough to fit into a standard sized backpack, as per Disney’s guidelines. It doesn’t have to actually be in a backpack; they just don’t want guests carrying around huge tripods. The tripod my husband uses is very similar to this Manfrotto Tripod{affiliate link}. It folds up small enough to fit into his camera bag, but is actually taller than me (but shorter than my husband) when fully extended. I’m about average height, and when we tested it out at home, I stood directly in front of the camera mounted on the tripod. By angling the camera up just a tiny bit, my husband was able to completely remove me from view – just one of the advantages of a tripod!

Ok, back to getting brilliant colors in your photographs! Aside from being able to get your camera up higher, a tripod is essential for capturing the dazzling colors of the fireworks. Why? Two words: shutter speed. Have you ever seen those photos where someone holds a sparkler and actually writes out a word with it? Those types of photos are pretty awesome! They’re made by keeping the camera’s shutter open longer, allowing more time for the camera to capture the light it sees. When it comes to taking fireworks photos, you also want to allow more time for the light to be captured. This lets those stunning colors really soak in. What you don’t want, though, is to accidentally move the camera while it’s taking in all that light. Sure, you may end up with a kind of cool photo, but it’s really not what you want for fireworks photography. If you’re just holding your camera, more than likely you won’t be able to hold it completely still for up to a 30 second shutter speed. You’ll need a tripod to hold the camera completely still.

Flash Photography? I Wouldn’t!

This tip may be more of a Public Service Announcement than a tip, but as anyone who’s ever traveled back in time to pick up a dinosaur knows, flash photography alters the homing signal – and that’s not good! In addition, flash photography also frightens the happy haunts, ruins the magic on dark rides, and an make it difficult for other guests to get a good photo. With the proper lenses and camera settings, you won’t even miss your flash. The main reason not to use flash while taking your fireworks photos is fairly simple: your camera’s flash lights up a area of maybe a few feet in front of your camera, right? Unless you’re sitting right in front of the castle, which really is too close for good pictures of the fireworks anyway, the nighttime spectaculars take place hundreds, if not thousands, of feet away from your camera’s small flash. There is no way that small flash is going to light up the subject of your photo. So really there’s no advantage to using flash photography for fireworks.

Be Familiar With Your Camera

Whether you have a point & shoot camera or a DSLR camera, you’ll want to make sure you’re familiar with the camera and its settings prior to arriving at Walt Disney World. Take a look at the camera’s manual. Research tips specific to your model of camera. In general, you’ll want a lower ISO to help reduce noise in your nighttime photography. Happily Ever After and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular do offer a bit of a challenge due to each show’s projections. While you do want a lower ISO for the fireworks, you’ll need a higher one to better capture the projections.

If you can find illuminated buildings, bridges, or better yet, some fireworks to take some practice photographs at home, be sure to do so. Play with the settings on your camera until you find the settings which give you the types of nighttime photos you’re wanting. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and of course, have fun!


For more Disney photo tips,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Kimberly's love of Disney began at an early age and grew even more when her family won a Walt Disney World vacation from a local radio station. She grew up visiting the parks every one to two years and is fascinated by Disney history and trivia. Whether at the parks or at home, Kimberly is constantly looking for hidden Mickeys. She enjoys sharing tips and helping others plan their Disney vacations. In addition to Frontierland Station, she can also be found writing for Park World Travel and selecting music for Park World Radio.

Latest posts by Kimberly (see all)

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  • The hard part about fireworks photography is all of the planning and preparation involved. But you can end up with some amazing photos that way!

    • You are so right! It definitely takes some time to get great photos, but it’s so worth it!

  • Carrie Hurst

    These are great! I need to get better with taking fireworks photos with my cell phone.

    • Thanks! Fireworks photos are some of my favorites! So pretty!

  • Daniel

    Such a magical place. I want to go right now!

    • Me too! I’m always up for a trip to Disney!

  • Deanna

    Those pictures are perfect. Thanks for the great tips!

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