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How to take the best photos of fireworks with your smartphone

The Fourth of July is upon us. One of the most incredible experiences is the countless fireworks shows around the country all weekend long. But what if you want to capture those moments? Tap or click here for seven photography myths you should stop believing.

Fireworks aren’t the easiest thing to photograph, especially if you consider the conditions. Firework displays occur at night, which means decreased lighting (which isn’t ideal for photographs). Fireworks are also constantly moving and reappearing, which can cause issues.

If you want to take great photos of the next firework celebration, let us walk you through the best settings and situations, whether you are an iPhone or an Android user.

Finding the right location

Preplanning when and where to take your photos is the best first step. It ensures you get optimal shots. Look for a well-lit area, preferably one with street lamps.

You’ll also want your photo free of obstructions, like wires and telephone poles. Suppose you are viewing the fireworks in a crowded location. In that case, you’ll want to separate yourself from the crowd to avoid getting bumped into while photographing and to prevent any strangers from popping up in your photos later.

Finding the right settings

Cell phones today come with impressive cameras that allow just about anyone to take professional-looking photos. However, like with a professional camera, the best images come from taking your device out of automatic mode.

By turning your phone into manual mode, you control essential features that will affect your final product, like your aperture and ISO. Can’t find the manual mode for your smartphone? You can download a third-party app to give you access. In general, here are the settings you will want once you place your phone into manual mode:

  • Adjust your ISO, there’s a very long explanation of why this matters, but the main idea is that you’ll want to lower your ISO when taking pictures in low-light settings. You’ll want to adjust this and take several test shots to find the right balance.
  • Because fireworks are essentially giant balls of light, the last thing you need is your flash. Turn it off.
  • How wide your aperture determines how much light gets in. 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 allows you to keep your shutter open as long as you want.

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

Ultimately, purchasing an inexpensive tripod will fetch you the best results.

Taking great photos on your iPhone

If you happen to own Apple’s newest model, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, you’ll be able to take pictures that are almost indistinguishable from professionals.

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

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

Extra tips for using your iPhone

In addition to adjusting your phone’s settings, there are a few other tricks 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 it takes the three shots, it will combine them all into one image. It’s super ideal in situations where there is little light.
  • Shoot in burst mode. If you hold down your finger on the picture button, your camera will enter burst mode and take dozens of photos on rapid-fire. This is a handy option because if you manually set your camera settings beforehand, you’ll get several shots of the same landscape. Choose the one you like the most afterward.
  • Try taking a video. Most of the most recent iPhones take high-resolution video. You can record the event and then return later and pick the best shots out of your video.

How to take the best photos with your Android

If only Android phones worked the same as iPhone, alas, they don’t. However, they take photos just as well as their competitors. 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 taking burst shots.
  • Use HDR mode.
  • Take a video and grab photos later.

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

  • Disable the review pictures setting. This feature is standard on many Android phones and can completely blow your fireworks photoshoot if you aren’t careful. What does it do? Every time you take a photo, it pops up for you to look at it. If you keep this setting on, you won’t snap several photos or use burst mode. Do yourself a favor and turn it off in your camera’s app settings.
  • Use Tracking Autofocus on your newer Androids. If your phone has Tracking Autofocus, do yourself a favor and turn it on! What does it do? It tracks moving items across your screen for optimal lighting and shooting. It’s excellent for fireworks. You can turn it on in your camera’s settings.

Using these tips and preparing before the big show, you are sure to get many great shots that you will treasure for years to come. A 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 shooting mid-fireworks display, and that would be a shame.

For more camera tips, heres a camera setting that will help you save space on your camera roll.

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