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How to take great fireworks photos on your phone

'Yeah...I'm sure those fireworks were stunning IN PERSON.'


Amrita Khalid


Published Jul 4, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 12:29 pm CDT

Fourth of July is upon us. You’ve got some meats cooking on the grill and an awesome Spotify playlist to boot. You’re ready to kick back with a can of Bud-I mean-America  and enjoy the evening’s fireworks display.

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As the fireworks goes off, something goes wrong. You’ve been dutifully ignoring your friends and loved ones and cataloging the evening’s bursts on Snapchat and Instagram. But you realize your fireworks photos look like shit.

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The bemused comments begin to pile in on Snapchat and IG:

“Whoa…flash much? “

“Is that a jellyfish?” 

“I thought you guys said you scouted out a good location!” 

“So glad I decided to backpack through Peru instead of deal with all the crowds on 4th of July. Looks tough out there. Good luck, bro!”

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Don’t be the person with the bad fireworks photos on Fourth of July. It’s America’s birthday and there’s no excuse.

Here are some tips for taking good photos of fireworks on your smartphone:

1) Turn off your flash

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Yes, you’re in the dark and it is nightime. But trust us, the explosions going off over the horizon will give off enough light. Don’t be the tool blinding everyone who’s already being blinded by the fireworks with your smartphone’s flash.

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2) Adjust the ISO

#Fireworks is so weird on #Thursday night, #July4th #early #Astoria #NYC #Queens

A photo posted by Richard Burroughs (@dickburroughs) on


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You’ll want to switch the settings of your smartphone’s camera to manual and adjust the exposure. According to National Geographic, the ideal ISO for fireworks photography is 100, which is usually the lowest ISO level on most smartphones. ISO makes your photos lighter, and so for fireworks you’ll want it as low as it can go.


Read more from the Daily Dot:

3) Switch to Landscape Mode

Trust us on this one. Your smartphone’s camera will always try to find an object on which to focus. This tends to work out poorly against a dark sky, where there are few specific objects to focus on. Putting your camera on landscape mode will fix this.

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From Techilicious:

By putting your camera in “landscape” mode, you’ll be presetting the focus to infinity and narrowing the lens opening, which keeps both near and far objects in focus.

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4) Use Burst Mode

If you have an iPhone or any other camera with a Burst mode, be sure to turn it on. You’ll have 20-30 photos for every snap, so you can pick the best one. Chances are you’ll have a winner among the lot.

5) Turn on HDR

#night #fireworks #saintpetersburg #lights #алыепаруса #ночь #феерверк

A photo posted by Nick Malcev (@nick.malcev) on

If ever there was an occasion for high-dynamic-range photography, it’s fireworks! If you have an iPhone or another smartphone with HDR capability, take advantage of it.

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As OSXDaily details:

“For shooting something like fireworks, HDR can be particularly advantageous because the different exposure images often capture light-trails and other details that a single image may not capture.”

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*First Published: Jul 4, 2016, 9:00 am CDT