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How to Get Great Fireworks Photos with Your Phone

by on July 02, 2021
in Cameras and Photography, Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, Tips & How-Tos, Tech 101 :: 0 comments

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Watching the July 4th fireworks has been a long-standing family tradition. But, capturing the beautiful aerial displays can be hard if you stick with the auto settings on your smartphone. So, try these simple tricks for fireworks photos you'll want to keep.

1. Use a tripod

Yoozon Selfie Stick is shown on a white background with the tripod legs extended along with the shutter button and charging cable

When you take a picture of fireworks, your phone's camera needs to hold the shutter open long enough to “see” the fireworks. The longer the shutter is open, the more susceptible your photo is to motion blur. So use a tripod to make sure there’s no movement.

If you have a flat surface for setting up your phone, try the Yoozon Selfie Stick ($13.99, buy the Yoozon Selfie Stick on Amazon). This combination selfie stick and tripod has a Bluetooth remote control, so you can place your phone in the place with the best view and trigger your shots with the remote. If you don't have a good surface, Joby's GripTight GorillaPod Stand Pro ($64.99, buy the Joby GripTight Gorillapod Pro on Amazon), which can wrap around trees and poles or stand on the ground, is a great option that fits most smartphones.   

2. Use manual focus

Your phone's camera automatically tries to find an object on which to focus. And when presented with a black featureless sky, the camera doesn’t know what to do. So you'll need to manually set the focus to infinity, which keeps both near and far objects in focus. 

For iPhone owners, you can manually set the focus by tapping on the screen and you can lock focus by pressing an holding until the AE/AF lock turns on. This will hold the focus point until you exit the app or turn off your phone.

 iOS 14 Camera app screenshot showing AE/AF lock label in a yellow box and a yellow-box outline showing the locked area on a black screen

For Android phone owners, you'll find the manual focus option in the "Pro" (for Samsung phone owners) or "Manual" modes in your phone's camera app. 

A screenshot of the Camera FV-5 lite app for Android pointing out the focus button. Other options include white balance, meter, shutter speed and ISO.

The Camera FV-5 lite app for Android lets you change focus to infinity.

If your smartphone's camera app doesn't have a manual mode, there's an infinity focus option with Camera FV-5 lite app for Android phones.

3. Turn off the flash

Turning your flash off will let your phone's camera know that it only has available light to take a picture. With the flash off, the camera will keep the shutter open long enough to capture the fireworks.

The flash button is a lightning bolt and usually a separate button on the main camera app screen or in the settings within the camera app.

4. Turn down the ISO

High ISO will crank up the sensitivity of your phone's camera so it can see details in the dark. However, the fireworks themselves are quite bright.

So, to avoid overexposure and reduce noise, take your camera out of Auto ISO and change the setting to ISO 100 or even lower. Some Android phones will have this setting in their manual mode. If you can't find the ISO setting, install the Camera FV-5 lite app for Android phones.

iPhone owners will need to install a camera app to adjust ISO manually. I like Camera+ 2 app for iPhones ($3.99), shown below. 

Screenshot of Camera+ 2 app for iOS showing the Manual settings for zoom, white balance, focus, and ISO. The ISO setting on the menu and the area of ISO adjustment are pointed out.

Updated on 7/2/2021

[watching fireworks via Shutterstock, Yoozon, Joby, Camera+]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.

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