Like sunsets and fall foliage, capturing the majesty of a great Fourth of July fireworks show can be tough. Your heart may have been pounding with patriotic fervor during last year’s grand finale, but all your images might have turned out flat and uninspiring.
This year, use these tips to get fireworks shots you won’t soon forget with your smartphone:
Charge up. It ought to go without saying, which is why we put it first. Make sure your phone is fully charged before heading out to the show. There’s nothing more anticlimactic than seeing a low battery warning just as things are getting good.
Don’t get lost in the haze. Scout the right spot early on. Stay upwind to minimize butty shots from the smoke.
Hold it steady. Night shots call for slower shutter speeds, but that gives your hand more time to shake slightly and blur your photo. A tripod is your best bet for a steady shot, but you can also steady your phone against a fence or a lawn chair.
Shut off the flash and any HDR settings: HDR (High Dynamic Range) essentially tells your camera to take multiple shots at different exposures and combine them into one, which makes it great for shots with variable lighting in the frame, like people standing before a sunset. But with fireworks, flash and HDR will create blurry images, since each frame will be slightly different from the others.
Engage the AE/AF lock: If your default camera app has a night mode—or even a fireworks mode—enable that for best results. If possible, lock your focus using the AE (automatic exposure) and AF (auto focus) options and take some shots beforehand to work out the exposure. On the iPhone and many Android phones, tapping the screen once locks in the exposure and focus.
Experiment: Try both landscape and portrait shots. Most fireworks shows give you enough time to experiment with a variety of different shots.
Don’t touch that zoom! It’s tempting, seeing as how far up those fireworks are, but the digital zoom on camera phones won’t give you a great shot with fireworks. You can always crop the photo in a photo editor app later.
Want more tips? More resources on how to take the best photos with your phone can be found here:
How to Take Fireworks Photos with Your Phone by Gizmodo
How to take pictures of fireworks with your phone by azcentral.com