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Take perfect Fourth of July pictures

Take perfect Fourth of July pictures
© Mirecca | Dreamstime.com

The Fourth of July and fireworks go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you're going to be breaking out the camera for any upcoming fireworks ceremonies, you'll probably want to catch the grand finale.

Of course, taking photos at night can already be difficult. When you throw in the sudden bursts of lights, things get even trickier.

Still, there are plenty of people wondering how to photograph fireworks. Let me share my secrets to taking fireworks pictures that will light up your world for years to come.

The best advice I can give you is that preparation is key. Find a good place to shoot before the show starts. Set up where the smoke will be blowing away from you and then take some test shots.

Make sure you're happy with any objects or reference points that might be in the foreground or background. You don't want to try to fiddle with framing during the show.

Camera settings

Fireworks are tough because the sudden, intense light can confuse your camera. That's why it shouldn't be in automatic mode. Manual mode will let you pick the perfect settings in advance.

  • Make sure your flash is off.
  • Turn off autofocus.
  • You don't need a special lens; any zoom lens will do. The best shots will probably be between 50 and 100 mm.
  • Turn the ISO down to 200. The higher you make it, the more washed out the sky will look in your shot.
  • You'll want an aperture of f/11 to f/16 for the best results.
  • You'll want a long exposure to get the whole burst. One or two seconds should capture great shots. Turn on Long Exposure and Noise Reduction.
  • You can even set your camera to bulb mode - that's B on most cameras. This means the shutter will stay open until you release the trigger. Hit it right before the rocket bursts and release it when the light starts to go away.

Of course, long exposures mean you should break out the tripod and cable release. If you need a tripod, I have plenty in my store that you're sure to love. This keeps you from shaking the camera and blurring the shot.

The settings I gave above will work for most situations, but don't be afraid to experiment. Once you get some shots you love, try playing around with some settings. When it's all said and done, your favorite shot may be one where you broke the rules.

Keep reading and we'll tell you how to take better photos with your Android or iPhone.

How to take fantastic photos with your iPhone

Remember the days when you had to haul your flip phone around and a digital camera? Back then, the picture resolution was the only thing preventing your phone from being your one and only go-to gadget. You needed that camera. Otherwise, you'd be stuck with grainy, low-quality images for each and every photo. 

Thankfully, that's not the case anymore. The camera on your iPhone and iPad can do a whole lot more.

If you own an iPhone 7, your phone is equipped with a brand new camera system capable of 12 MP with an autofocus, IOS and quad. Even better, if you own an iPhone 7 Plus, you have two brand new camera systems that shoot as one, plus and optical 2x zoom and digital 10x zoom. 

Quick tips:

1. Adjust the camera exposure

Before

After

You know that annoying box that pops up on your screen whenever you go to take a picture? Well, it might not be so annoying after all.

Tap your screen to move the box to whichever area you'd like to focus on, then tap the dot beside it to instantly adjust the exposure. This will automatically fix problems with poor lighting.

2. Add a filter

Instagram isn't the only place where you'll find built-in filters. Your iPhone camera has a built-in photo editor as well, including basic tools. 

Want to create a whimsical effect? Or how about a classic black and white? All of these filters can be found in your camera app just by tapping on the image you'd like to edit.

Beneath the image, you'll find an icon that looks like lines with beads. Tap this icon and you'll find editing tools such as cropping, angle adjustment, contrast settings and filters.

3. Choose your favorites

If you're tired of hunting for your favorite photos, don't forget to tap that little heart at the bottom of the image. Doing this will make the image available in your favorites folder, keeping the best pictures front and center.

How to capture the best photos with your Android

If you're using an Android phone, taking crystal-clear, high-res photos is as easy as slipping your phone out of your pocket and tapping it. But if you want some added features, you might like these 5 apps that we've tried or that readers like you have recommended.

1. Instagram

Facebook's photo-based social media app, Instagram, is the crown jewel of Android photo apps. If you're not one of the 500 million people using Instagram, you're missing out.

The beauty of Instagram is how easy it is to use. Take a photo, or video, and share it on your Stories. Those are Instagram's posts where you update your followers on what's going on in your life. It's kind of like a daily photo journal for the world to see. You can also share your photos on other social networks, like Facebook.

The best part about Instagram, though, is its photo features. You can easily adjust the color and brightness of your photos, and you can add filters, too. Do you want to post a photo of your face, but with a kitten's ears on your head? Just "tap" and it's there.

2. PicsArt Photo Studio and Collage

This is a social media app like Instagram with loads of fun features. You can tweak the image of photos, crop them and share them with friends. Plus, you can add stamps like little hearts or musical notes to your photos.

PicsArt has other photo apps, too, like Animator and Color Paint.

 3. PhotoDirector

PhotoDirector is one of the most-loved photo editors for Android, and here's why. It's a highly polished photo tool that professional photographers use to adjust images, colors and a lot more.

Yet, it's simple to use. If you're a photo app novice, give PhotoDirector a shot. It might just become your next favorite, free photo-editing app.

Note: Some free photo apps have ads.

4. Prisma

If you want to play around with photo filters and improving the look of your snaps, you may need artificial intelligence. That's right, AI.

Prisma uses AI to help you improve the look of your photos. You just take a photo and Prisma suggests filters. These are filters inspired by famous painters.

Say you take a picture of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful, right? Yet it can look even better, brighter and bolder in the hands of an artist. Suddenly a familiar image turns into a work of art that you can easily share on your social media networks.

5. Lightroom

You've heard about Adobe Photoshop. The photo-editing software has been popular with professional photographers for more than a quarter century. If you're not a pro, Photoshop may be more than you need.

Which is where Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for mobile comes in. Although it's also used by professional photographers, its menu-based photo-editing tools make it easy for everyone to use.

Take a photo, select a feature like cropping from the menu, and select it. Or, if you're a little more experienced using photo-editing tools, you can use Lightroom's advanced features.

Now that you know how to take the best photos, be sure to take plenty of them. Given the speed at which fireworks move, a few hundred photos will get you a few good ones.

You can sit down on July 5 to organize and sort them. Don't be afraid to do some editing as well with a photo editor.

Remember, there are plenty of other things to celebrate about the Fourth of July. Take this opportunity to photograph the great patriotic traditions in your neighborhood. The pictures you get at a local military base or parade could be just as good as fireworks shots.

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