How to take the best fireworks photos with your smartphone

July 4th is upon us. One of the most incredible experiences is the countless fireworks displays across the country throughout the weekend. But what if you want to capture those moments? Tap or click here to discover seven photographic myths you should stop believing in.

Fireworks aren’t the easiest thing to photograph, especially considering the conditions. Fireworks occur at night, which means reduced lighting (which is not ideal for photographs). Fireworks are constantly moving and reappearing, which can cause problems.

If you want to take some great photos of the next fireworks display, let us guide you through the best settings and situations whether you are an iPhone or Android user.

Find the right location

Pre-planning when and where to take your photos is the best first step. This guarantees you optimal shots. Look for a well-lit area, preferably with street lights.

You’ll also want your photo to be unobstructed, like wires and telephone poles. Suppose you are watching fireworks in a crowded place. In this case, you will want to separate yourself from the crowds to avoid getting bumped while photographing and to prevent strangers from appearing in your photos later.

Find the right settings

Cell phones today are equipped with impressive cameras that allow anyone to take professional quality photos. However, as with a professional camera, the best images come from taking your device out of automatic mode.

By putting your phone in manual mode, you control essential features that will affect your end product, like your openness and ISO. Can’t find manual mode for your smartphone? You can download a third-party app to give you access. In general, these are the settings you’ll want after you put your phone in manual mode:

  • Adjust your ISO, there is a really long explanation of why this is important, but the main idea is that you will want to lower your ISO when taking photos in low light settings. You’ll want to adjust that and take several test photos to find the right balance.
  • Because fireworks are basically giant balls of light, the last thing you need is your flash. Turn it off.
  • The width of your opening determines the amount of light that enters. Aim for an aperture of f11 to f16
  • Shutter speed matters. The longer it stays open, the better your shot will be. So instead of choosing a shutter speed, change it to Bulb mode. Bulb mode lets you keep your shutter open for as long as you want.

These settings are just a starting point and vary from situation to situation and phone to phone. You’ll want to adjust them slowly and take several test photos along the way.

In the end, buying a cheap tripod will get you the best results.

Take great photos on your iPhone

If you have Apple’s latest model, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, you will be able to take photos that are almost indistinguishable from the pros.

If you don’t have an iPhone 12, don’t worry, any iPhone 7 or higher will do. Here’s how to set up your iPhone to take the perfect shot.

  • Open your camera and find the yellow box we all seem to ignore. By selecting the object you are trying to take a picture of, the yellow box will appear. This adjusts your exposure, so that your phone’s lighting is in the right place.
  • Choose a filter. IPhones come with tons of additional filters that can change the look of your photo.

Additional tips for using your iPhone

Besides adjusting your phone’s settings, there are a few other tips for taking the best photo:

  • Try HDR Mode: This option will allow you to take three photos in different exposure modes for the most optimal results to choose from. After taking all three photos, it will combine them all into one picture. It is super ideal in situations where there is little light.
  • Shoot in burst mode. If you hold your finger on the photo button, your camera will enter burst mode and take dozens of burst mode photos. This is a handy option because if you manually set your camera settings beforehand, you will get multiple photos of the same landscape. Then choose the one you like the most.
  • Try to take a video. Most of the newer iPhones take high resolution videos. You can save the event, then come back later and choose the best shots for your video.

How to take the best photos with your Android

If only Android phones worked the same as the iPhone, alas, this is not the case. However, they take pictures just as well as their competition. The following general tips work for both iPhone and Android phones, but we’ll cover them again to reiterate their importance:

  • Turn off your flash.
  • Try to take burst photos.
  • Use HDR mode.
  • Take a video and take photos later.

Now these are similar, but there are a few Android specific tips that will help you take the best photos:

  • Turn off the image review setting. This feature is standard on many Android phones and can completely explode your fireworks photoshoot if you’re not careful. What does it do? Every time you take a photo, it pops up for you to view. If you keep this setting, you will not take multiple photos and use burst mode. Do yourself a favor and turn it off in your camera app settings.
  • Use Tracking Autofocus on your new androids. If your phone has tracking autofocus, do yourself a favor and turn it on! What does it do? It tracks moving elements on your screen for the best lighting and shooting. It is excellent for fireworks. You can enable it in your camera settings.

By using these tips and preparing for the big show, you are sure to get many great photos that you will treasure for years to come. One final tip: make sure your phone has enough storage to hold the hundreds of photos you’ll end up taking. If you don’t, your camera might stop filming in the middle of a fireworks display, and that would be a shame.

For more camera tips, here’s a camera setting that will help you save space on your film.

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