With Independence Day upon us here in the United States, it’s a great opportunity to witness some spectacular firework displays all around you. That means you’ll probably want to capture the amazing light shows in the night sky, so you can share them on social media for the world to see. And that means figuring out how to photograph fireworks with your smartphone cameras.
After all, smartphones have become our go-to cameras because of the convenience they offer, especially now that some of the best camera phones can compete with the quality of dedicated point-and-shoot cameras.
You can take great 4th of July fireworks photos without doing much. That’s because the post-processing techniques on many smartphones edit the photo for even better results. It’s a bit like having a Photoshop editor work its magic on your photos, so the only thing you need to worry about is framing.
While a phone’s auto mode combined with these image processing techniques might produce share-worthy shots of fireworks, there are still a number of tips and tricks for capturing fireworks on your phone like a pro. Whether you’re using an iPhone or an Android, just know that these tips generally work in the built-in camera apps on both types of devices.
1. Use a tripod and phone holder
We cannot emphasize the importance of a steady hand for night images, but you need to go further to photograph fireworks with your phone. Instead, you’ll want to use a tripod and a phone holder of some sort to make sure there’s no wobble when shooting. Even a small movement can cause fireworks to streak or become blurry.
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2. Turn off the flash
Fireworks light up the night sky, so it doesn’t make sense for your phone’s built-in flash to turn off when you take the photo. The worst that could happen is that your entire exposure could be canceled by turning off the flash, especially if there’s a crowd around you in close-up. Turn off the flash altogether.
3. Set your exposure
When you launch the camera app on your phone, the exposure is typically set to wherever you tap on the screen, so you’ll see the shot get brighter or darker depending on what you press.
We suggest waiting for the first set of fireworks to explode in the sky. When this happens, quickly tap and hold on the phone screen to force the app to lock the exposure. Now your exposure should neither be too under nor over exposed.
4. Blocks concentration
Your phone’s exposure lock should also lock focus. Most camera apps will even display a message of some sort that exposure and focus are locked. Once focus has been locked on the area of the sky the phone is pointing at, your shots should come out super sharp every time.
5. Use a lower ISO value
ISO often refers to the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor, so raising the ISO generally brightens the shot. As a general rule, you’ll want to use a lower ISO to reduce the noise in a shot, but sometimes it can make night photos really dark. Regardless, you’ll want to try to stick to ISO 800 or lower to minimize noise in your shot.
Now, this tip largely depends on the phone you are using. You will be able to adjust this parameter if you use an Android phone with manual mode, such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 or the Motorola Razr+.
Unfortunately there’s no way to adjust the ISO on an iPhone, but don’t worry as locking exposure should keep the ISO at the correct level for best results.
6. Try long exposure/night mode
If you’re looking for more creativity, we recommend trying long exposure or night mode on your smartphone. Using these modes will cause a streaked effect to the fireworks, while the overall shot may appear overexposed or brighter.
It’s worth experimenting a few times to get the perfect balance where the stripes are there and the night sky doesn’t look like it’s morning.
7. Use the optical lens to get close
Unless you’re right below where the fireworks are launched, it’s hard to get close to those fireworks. Chances are you’re at a safe distance, which is the perfect opportunity to use your phone’s telephoto lens.
They’re typically reserved for high-end flagship phones like the iPhone 14 Pro Max, Google Pixel 7 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. The latter is noteworthy because it packs an impressive 10x optical zoom. By using all the techniques we mentioned earlier, you will be able to fill the shot with more fireworks than the surrounding scene.
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