Believe it or not, you don’t need a fancy camera to capture those Fourth of July fireworks.
Your smartphone will work fine. All you need is to follow these pointers:
1. The flash is not your friend
At most, keeping your flash on will just brighten up the scene within a few feet of you. At worst, it will delay your phone’s camera and you’ll miss the moment. Always remember to turn the flash off when photographing at night.
2. No HDR
HDR or High Dynamic Range is a tool you can use with scenes that have high contrast. An example would be a shadowy cityscape with a bright, cloudy sky. You try to expose the photo on your phone’s screen and either the buildings are really dark or the sky is really blown-out. The HDR tool takes a couple of pictures and puts them together, trying to get the best of both worlds. None of this works at night. All it will do if anything is create a lot of “noise” in your photo and give it that gross, grainy look.
If you want crisp, pretty photos at night then you don’t want a shaky phone. You can find accessories to attach smartphones to big tripods, or find small tripods and attachment made specifically for smartphones. If you would rather not spend the cash you can try some of these DIY projects. You can also try leaning against a stationary object like a wall or tree for a quick shot. For long exposure pictures, try to find a safe, flat surface to set your phone on.
4. There’s an app for that
You can find night photography apps for smartphones by searching online. I used NightCap for the firefly photo above. The app lets you create long exposures that give some of the little lightning bugs that streaking effect. It can be a fun way to photograph sparklers, stars or get fireworks streaking across the sky. Warning: It has a tendency to crash so I recommend clearing your camera roll to free-up space on your phone.
Android users can try Night Camera.
5. Anticipate the shot
This is important for fireworks. Smartphones have a tendency to lag by a second or two after you hit the shutter button. If you aren’t using a long exposure, then practice your timing so you get the big bang and not the fizzle.
6. Remember to have fun
Really, this should probably be up at number 1.