Take better fireworks photos with your smartphone

If you’ve ever tried taking pictures of fireworks with your phone, you probably weren’t very happy with the results. Fortunately, with a little care and the right tools, you can get much better images.

Use the right lens

While it’s tempting to zoom in when shooting fireworks, for example, it’s a bad idea. Modern smartphones have different lenses, but also different sensors. take the iPhone 13 Pro† It has three 12-megapixel cameras: the main wide-angle, an ultra-wide-angle and a telephoto lens. All three have very different specifications.

The ultra wide-angle lens has an aperture of f/1.8, while the telephoto lens has an aperture of f/2.8. Both use 1/3.4-inch sensors. However, the wide main camera has an f/1.5 aperture and a 1/1.65-inch sensor. Not only does the wider aperture let in more light, but the larger sensor (it has about 3.6 times more surface area) is better able to capture it. It doesn’t matter that all three have the same resolution of 12 megapixels, at night when you’re shooting fireworks, the main camera is much better.

So whatever smartphone you use, the best camera to use is normally the default camera. (If you want to dig deeper, check out the specs.)

The iPhone 13 Pro
It can be tempting to use your smartphone’s telephoto camera, but for the best results stick to the standard wide angle.

Operate the camera manually

Your smartphone is probably great at taking pictures automatically in most situations, but fireworks at night may not be one of them. To get the best results, you need to be able to set both the shutter speed and ISO.

The exact settings depend on your situation, but some good values ​​to start with are:

  • Shutter speed: 1 second to 5 seconds.
  • ISO: 25 to 400.

Oh, and make sure the flash is turned off.

Some smartphones have standard camera apps that allow you to manually adjust the settings. If not, you have plenty of options. On iPhone, check out Instruction manual ($3.99) and ProCamera. ($14.99). We love too Halide Mark II (but at $12 a year after a free trial, it’s harder to recommend if you don’t take a lot of smartphone photos). on android, Open camera (free), Camera FV-5 ($3.95), and ProShot ($4.99) are also all worth checking out.

Keep your smartphone still

With shutter speeds between one and five seconds slow, any optical image stabilization in your smartphone will work pretty hard.

If you have a smartphone tripod (we love Joby’s GorillaPod), it’s a good idea to use it. Otherwise, choose a slightly faster shutter speed (for example, one or two seconds), keep your smartphone close and put your arms against your torso

Fireworks at Disney World
Flickr user Steven Van took this photo with an iPhone 6s. Foreground elements can make fireworks photos more interesting. Steven Van

Set up in advance

If you’re waiting for the fireworks to start (or better yet, you’re involved in getting the screen going), get your smartphone ready to go. Decide where to stand, where to rest your tripod (or balance your smartphone), and where to focus. This is also a chance to go into your settings and try out a few different shutter speeds to see how they work with the environment you’re in.

keep shooting

You’re unlikely to get a great fireworks photo the first time you tap the shutter button. But the tenth? Much more likely!

While you can’t use burst mode if you have the shutter speed set to one second or slower, you can still tap the shutter button yourself. If you find this adds camera shake, consider using a fast shutter lag.

The more shots you take, the better you can time them, so don’t be afraid to experiment! Depending on your shutter speed, you should take your shot somewhere between the launch of the fireworks and the first explosion to get the best results.

Edit your photos

Hereby PopPhoto, we firmly believe that a photo is not ready until you have edited it. Open the image in your favorite editing app (even if it’s Instagram), increase the saturation and maybe the contrast. Trim it so it’s properly framed and you’re good to go!

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