Every year in July, Americans wearing their washed-out flag shirts from 2000 that they’ve kept because they only wear them once per year (unless they recently painted their living room) gather together on an open field with picnic blankets and folding chairs to partake in the Sisyphean task of capturing the best moments of a fireworks show on camera. In a poll conducted by the United States Wasting Time Foundation (USWTF), when presented with a list of most patriotic pastimes, 73% of respondents chose “trying to take good pictures at a fireworks show on the 4th of July” over “listening to Bob Dylan,” “attending a baseball game and actually staying until the ninth inning,” and “proudly singing the chorus to ‘American Pie,’ but mumbling through every other verse.”

Human beings have a long history of being interested in capturing these temporal bursts of color in a format they can keep forever, but ironically never look at these photos after July 5th of the year the photo was taken. So dire was this need to immortalize fireworks on our memory cards and overcrowded photo libraries on our phones that camera manufacturers had to have an important meeting.

Leading Camera Manufacturer: The people want to be able to take pictures of fireworks.

More Expensive Leading Camera Manufacturer: But a dark sky combined with a colorful explosive that’s at it’s most photogenic for about two seconds? For the amateur photographer, it’s impossible to get a good shot!

Leading Camera Manufacturer: You’re right…

Shady Camera Manufacturer Conglomerate That Also Sells Appliances and Frozen Foods: Well, why don’t we try to develop a fireworks setting to match the snow and pet settings we rolled out…

More Expensive Leading Camera Manufacturer: That’s a great idea!

Shady Camera Manufacturer Conglomerate That Also Sells Appliances and Frozen Foods: Only let’s make sure it doesn’t work so all the fireworks just look like the outtakes from an acid trip at an EDM festival.

And so the camera setting became standard on many point and shoot digital cameras.

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I’m no better than any of you. There are a number of fireworks pictures buried in my Facebook photo albums. Every July I promise myself that this will be the year I’ll give up the pursuit of taking one Great fireworks picture, but I keep trying anyway, with marginal success.

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But I can see the Great Picture in my mind. The photo is clear and crisp and worthy of a special edition stamp! I would catch one of those huge red, white, and blue asterisks at its fullest in the sky—the kind you can tell by the nnneeeeeeeeeeoow BOOOOM that you’re going to have to crane your neck back to see just how far it stretches into the atmosphere. This sublime could-be photo is the Moby Dick of my summer every year, but the true paradox of my quest is that I am literally the only person in the entire world who cares about taking, seeing, or sharing this picture.

This may be hard for some people to hear, but it needs to be said before we all miss out on reveling in the swell of pride only Kate Perry’s “Firework” can summon at a fireworks display: No one is looking at your fireworks pictures. Maybe your boring family members will, and maybe a few of the people you’re trying to impress with your existence on social media will idly glance at them, but at the end of the day, no one lives for fireworks pictures. People don’t even really like them. They just exist, and we keep adding to the library of useless fireworks pictures every year.

Fireworks pictures are all about the chase. You’re on the ground getting eaten alive by mosquitos sitting between some guy telling his grandson about a war he served in and a nauseating couple watching the entire show in each other’s eyes, and the music picks up and the explosives start firing off faster, and a tiny thought wiggles its way out of a pocket of your brain saying, “Capture this!!!! You need to get this!!! Look at how cool this is!! Don’t you want to keep this to look at this in November???” So you spend the entire fireworks display waiting for the best shot after too many misfires, and by the time its over, you’ve got 37 shaky-handed pictures that look like they could easily be a streetlight captured by a photographer with epilepsy.

Unlike your very best selfies or your enviable vacation pictures, no one is interested in revisiting fireworks photos. When it comes to holidays whose pictures you’re most likely to look at again later in the year, Fourth of July comes last, and it’s because fireworks are totally cool, but they’re at their best when you see them live. I’m not one to admonish people for wanting to keep a memento of life’s sweetest moments (#picsoritdidnthappen), but in the case of fireworks, it’s really best to put the camera down and just enjoy the show.

A random picture of fireworks won’t conjure memories of that awful Murphy’s Law feeling when you unwittingly sit behind a tree that blocks your view. It also can’t portray the surprise you feel when some tough guy sitting next to you wells up in tears staring at the sky. A misfired picture can’t trap the solemn magic of celebrating something with friends, family, and strangers, all with their eyes lit up in wonder over something so simple.

There’s a time and a place for fireworks pictures, but unless you’re at Disney World getting Cinderella’s castle in the background, know that fireworks pictures—much like photos of food and your open laptop—are the kind of thing people will see once and never look at again. Don’t let getting the perfect fireworks pictures make you feel like a plastic bag drifting through the wind, because no one’s looking at your fireworks pictures anyway.

3 thoughts on “No One Is Looking At Your Fireworks Photos

  1. Haha “don’t you sass me!” – i love that.
    You’re absolutely right. Some moments – especially with people in – are worth capturing. People change, move, leave. But fireworks are fireworks and should be enjoyed in the moment.

  2. Was just forced at my dad’s threat of “i’ll cut you out of the will” to watch a 6 min VIDEO of his fireworks photos…Not a video of fireworks…a video of his PHOTOS!!! Possibly the only thing worse than actually just looking at the pictures themselves…oh, and it was to some Celine Dion hit from long ago…smh

Don't you sass me! ...Actually, please do.

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