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Finish Fireworks Photos in Lightroom! It’s Easy

Welcome to the morning after the night before when you shot all of those photographs of fireworks. If you are like me, you have at least a hundred or more waiting for you to do all of the post production work on them. This is not a mountain to climb. it’s a fun little molehill to step over.

The power of AutoSync

AutoSync is Lightoom’s RAW batch processor. When it’s on, every change made to the most selected photo showing in the content area of the Develop module is applied to all of the selected photos. While there are times that this could pose a big problem, custom cropping for example, it works very well when there are similar photos that want to get to good starting place for subtle refinements. AutoSync is perfect for fireworks.

Finish Fireworks by Kevin Ames-003

Turning AutoSync On

When only one photo is selected in the Develop module, the only choice for synchronizing settings is Previous. Click it will apply the last group of setting to the currently selected photo. When more than one photo is selected, the most selected version (it’s the one with the brighter highlight and is displayed in the content area) Previous changes to Sync. Clicking Sync brings up a dialog box of all available settings, each with its own checkbox. This allows synchronizing only the setting chosen to the rest of the selected photographs. Click the switch to the left of Sync and the button’s name changes to AutoSync. Any change made to the most selected photo is applied to the rest of the selection with no further fuss. Remember that any change made in the Develop module is always undo-able at anytime in the future. No change is permanent.

Settings for enhancing fireworks photos

Here is a list of the settings I use for my fireworks photographs in order by panel. I’ve provided an explanation where the setting I choose might be confusing.

Basic panel – White Balance

Fireworks tend to create warm and vibrant colors. I choose Daylight for the white balance. This makes the oranges and yellows (the fire part of fireworks) show up nicely. Tungsten or Incandescent white balance cancels them out by returning those colors to white.

Finish Fireworks by Kevin Ames-007

Basic panel – Whites & Blacks

The Whites and Blacks sliders set the brightest highlight and darkest shadow area in the photo. I love these for cleaning up the sky. Blacks is particularly good at this. Use the tools by first holding down the Option (WIN: Alt) key. Click the Whites slider. The preview goes black except for maybe really small sparkles. This is good. Leave the Whites alone. If there is a huge amount of white showing, the photo is over exposed. Lower the Exposure slider then check Whites again. TIP: Holding down Option (WIN: Alt) works with Exposure too.

Finish Fireworks by Kevin Ames-009
The Whites slider is at 0 with the Option (WIN: Alt) key pressed. The sparkles indicate the brightest values in the photo.

Finish Fireworks by Kevin Ames-012

Still holding down the Option (WIN: Alt) click the Blacks slider at its default setting of 0. You’ll probably see a white screen with very few colors in the sky like the photo on the left. Move the Blacks control to the left and the sky becomes progressively more black. The middle photo shows Blacks at -20. By -28 only a tiny bit of color remains outside of the burst itself. If you have to move the slider much more to the left than -35 or so, once again, the photo is over exposed.

Basic panel – Presence

My favorite settings for fireworks are Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation–the Presence sliders.

  • Clarity +40
  • Vibrance +40
  • Saturation +30

Finish Fireworks by Kevin Ames-018

Clarity brings out the fine detail. Vibrance works on the middle, complimentary colors. Saturation hits them all, especially the primaries: red, green and blue.

Detail panel – Sharpening

Set this at +100 and move on.

Lens Corrections panel – Chromatic Aberration & Lens Profile Corrections

Check both boxes. Done. In rare instances, the Profile will display a different brand lens than the one you have. Click the dropdown menu and choose your lens’ manufacturer. All will be well.


With AutoSync on, all of the work you just did has propagated to every selected photo. If you want to amp up individual colors; there a post I wrote for that here.

All that’s left is to choose your favorite to share with family, friends, and Facebook followers. You can easily composite your fireworks together to make an closing extravaganza of your own. I’ll post a tutorial soon.

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