It's almost America's Independence Day, the Fourth of July. It's what many refer to as the start of the Fireworks season. Not only do you see many cities putting on their own fireworks displays, but many people buy fireworks to blow up in their driveways and elsewhere. And that means that you're going to want to snap some photos of those incredible looking firework displays.
The thing is, taking photos of fireworks is pretty tough. With the mixture of darkness, and then bright lights from the fireworks, it's going to be tough to get some great images from these fireworks displays. But it isn't impossible, and you really don't need to buy any accessories to take some great pictures either.
We've gathered up some tips to help you take the best photos of fireworks possible. Smartphone cameras are all really good these days. There's no real bad cameras out there, so it's all up to the user. And if you follow these tips, you'll likely get some really great, "Instagrammable" shots this Fourth of July.
It's worth noting that these are still some very general tips. These are geared towards all smartphones, not just a Galaxy S10 or a Huawei P30 Pro. But they should work for any Android smartphone out there, so keep that in mind.
Don't use the flash
It's dark, so you're going to be tempted to use the flash. Don't do it. The flash will actually make the photo worse, and the phone will be slower to actually snap the photo. This will leave you with a blurry shot or even missing the shot altogether. Not to mention the fact that this will annoy everyone that is around you watching the fireworks display too.
As a general rule, don't use the flash on your phone. It's there more to be used for the flashlight than for actually taking photos. With these night modes getting better and better, there's really no reason to use the flash, as it really doesn't help you take better photos. It will usually leave you with a pretty disgusting shadow in the photo, and if you're taking a photo of someone, they'll have a case of red-eye and they might even blink because the flash is so bright. So it's a good idea to just not use it at all. If the flash setting is set to "Auto", do yourself a favor and change that to "off".
Don't Zoom in
Don't do it. There are a few exceptions though. If you have the Huawei P30 Pro, go ahead and zoom in. But don't zoom in all the way. Zooming in while leave you with plenty of artifacts in the background and usually with a blurry image.
If you're phone has a telephoto lens like the Samsung Galaxy S10+ or the LG V40 ThinQ, then use that telephoto lens. It will come out better than zooming in with a phone without a telephoto lens, and you can get up closer.
The reason why you don't want to zoom in to get pictures of fireworks is because the zoom is going to be a digital zoom. Meaning that it is using software to zoom in. And not an actual zoom lens like you would find on a DSLR. Remember that the lens on your smartphone is going to be a fixed lens, so it's not really going to move at all. And that means that the zoom is not going to be great at all.
This goes for more than just fireworks too. Even if you are outside with plenty of sunlight, zooming in is not a good idea. Unless you do want a pretty noisy picture, which no one wants.
Use a Tripod
If you really want to get the best possible shots of fireworks using your smartphone, a tripod is going to be a must. The main reason for that is because, our hands are not steady. And when your taking photos at night, you're going to need it to be steady. The reason for this is because your phone is going to (most likely) take several photos in quick succession and then stitch them together. This allows the camera to get more light in, and provide a better picture. But if you can't hold your hands still, then it won't work like it should.
You can set up a tripod and take photos of the fireworks using your smartphone on that tripod, making it much easier. Now it might be a bit tough, depending on where you are watching the fireworks and how many people are there, but it should work pretty well.
It doesn't even need to be a big tripod, like a 60-inch tall one. Joby has some that can sit on a table, or even attach to a light pole. These can also fit in your pocket pretty easily. So you can carry it around and not worry about needing to take a bag with you to the location to watch the fireworks.
Use Burst Mode
Burst mode was basically made for taking photos of fireworks. On most phones, you can simply hold the shutter button, and the phone will continue taking photos until you let go. Some phones will only take up to around 30 pictures. Which is going to be more than enough. But this way you won't need to worry about missing the right shot. As it'll get them all.
Another reason to use burst mode, instead of just getting every single shot, is the fact that you can turn this all into a nice GIF that you can share on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere really. It makes for a really cool "moving picture" that you can share or send to your friends. Without really thinking about recording video while you are enjoying the fireworks. Which is a pretty cool thing.
If you have a Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a or Pixel 3a XL, you should be able choose the best shot when you do use burst mode. That's a new feature called "Top Shot" that Google added to the Pixel this past year. It's mostly meant for selfies, in case someone blinks when you snap the photo, or looks away. But it should work with fireworks photos as well.
Keep in mind that on some smartphones, you may need to actually enable this feature. Though it should be available by default on most smartphones. Just head into the camera's settings and you should see an option to enable burst mode. Then you can just hold down the shutter button for as long as you want. Some will time out at around 30 pictures, but others can go longer – up to as many as 60. But keep in mind that there will be a lot of photos on your phone, so if you don't have a lot of storage, you may want to take it easy.
Use the Night Mode
This is a feature that we've seen crop up more and more on newer smartphones. A dedicated night mode that will take several pictures and stitch them together to provide a better looking image, even when you're taking a photo in pitch black of night. And that feature is great for fireworks displays.
If you happen to have the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3a, then Night Sight is going to be perfect for capturing fireworks displays. Keep in mind that you are going to need to keep your phone up for a bit longer, as it is working to capture the image. But in the end, you should end up getting a really good looking photo.
Other smartphones like the Galaxy S10 (which just started rolling out a dedicated night mode this week, for the US) and the OnePlus 7 Pro also have their own night mode options that are worth checking out. These won't get as bright as the Pixel 3 though – Google did some serious magic with Night Sight. However, you'll still get a pretty good shot, and worth sharing online.
With all of these night modes, you will need to hold your phone still longer, and while fireworks displays are somewhat fast paced, they should not be that slow. Meaning that it will still work really well for capturing fireworks.
Typically fireworks displays are hard to photograph. Because it's dark, and the fireworks are bright and more pretty quickly. But smartphones have gotten so good in the past few years, that they can really do a good job at capturing these fireworks displays. And as the saying goes, the best camera is the one with you. Well that is actually the case now with smartphone cameras. These are – in many cases – better than point-and-shoot and even mirrorless cameras. Some are outperforming DSLRs as well.
If you are heading to any fireworks displays this Fourth of July, make sure to keep these tips in mind to get some great images. But also make sure to have fun, and enjoy the BBQ and time with friends and family this holiday.