Tips from the Master of Firefly Photography

Radim Schreiber, firefly photographer and creator of the photo book “Firefly Experience,” offers tips for capturing the magic of bioluminescence:

  • Scout your location one or two nights in advance. “While fireflies don’t migrate, they can change dates and densities per location year to year.”
  • Arrive at your location before sundown so you can set up your composition and select a depth of field before dark.
  • Use a red flashlight, as a regular flashlight will alter your vision and affect the fireflies. 
  • For macro photography, skip the insect repellent, which distracts fireflies. 


“For the longest time I have used Canon full-frame cameras such as the 5D and the 6D, but lately I’ve been giving preference to mirrorless Sony a7S and a7R, perhaps because their 4K video is much superior to Canon, and the a7S is designed for low light. Of course I prefer fast lenses.”

Nailing it

Photographed in Pennsylvania, the image “Misty River” (above) is one of Schreiber’s newest favorites and most technically complicated, he says. It was made with a Sony a7R III and a Sony 50mm f/1.4 lens. The background is composed of several focus-stacked layers, and the fireflies were stacked from more than 100 exposures. “The blurring effect happens naturally with this kind of firefly,” he says. “They’re called Chinese Lanterns and glow for a second or two. That’s enough time for them to blur and ‘paint’ short lines. There are different types of species of fireflies with various glow lengths and colors. Each of them can result in different photos and also a different kind of experience.”

Amanda Arnold is associate editor of Professional Photographer.