How to Capture Fireworks with Your Smartphone

For those of us in the United States, this upcoming weekend brings us the reminder of becoming a free and independent nation, but more importantly it brings out awesome fireworks. 

I have dabbled a bit with fireworks photography with my big camera but really have not played too much with my mobile phone as much as I should have.  Recently I went to a Seattle Mariner's game which ended with a Star Wars themed fireworks show.  I thought to myself, this would be a good article for folks since the Fourth of July is right around the corner.  Of course I had not thought it through all the way because I used my native camera to capture the shots in this article.

This article will contain tips and techniques that are repeated in other articles but take heed and see why I think it's important for trying to capture fireworks.  

1
Go Find You Some Firework Apps!

Safeco Mariner's Star Wars Fireworks Show 2015. Brad Puet

Truth be told, the native camera on most smart phones will capture  good photos of a fireworks show.  Some photos may even have that "wow" factor to them.  If you want to increase your chances of getting amazing shots of fireworks, then you really should get some apps on your phone now, start playing around with them at night, and get ready for this weekends fireworks show!

Here's a list of apps that can capture fireworks at night using long exposure techniques:

iOS: LongExpo  Slow Shutter  Slow Shutter Cam VSCO Cam  

Android: Camera FV-5   Night Camera

Windows Phone:  Blink

 


2
Do Not Use The Darn Zoom!

Safeco Mariner's Star Wars Fireworks Show 2015. Brad Puet

You absolutely lose resolution when you zoom in for a shot with a smartphone, as those of us who have ever photographed our kids’ school recitals in zoom modes now now. Use the widest possible framing so you use every one of those lovely pixels, then know you can always crop later.

I know I probably sound like a broken record, but it's crucial for you to understand and train yourself not to ever use that feature on your phone.

3
The Early Bird...Well You Know the Rest!

Safeco Mariner's Star Wars Fireworks Show 2015. Brad Puet

The show will always lead up to a great finale.  Of course you should be taking photos of the finale.

I think in the beginning of the show or even going into the first 3-5 minutes of a show, you will find that its the "cleanest" photos you will be able to take of the fireworks.

The more you get into the show, the more smoke will accumulate in the sky.  That is not the great news if you are a newbie, or if you’re expecting to get some awesome shot of the grand finale–which hey, you still might. But truly, a few great shots is all you need and if they come early, you can spend the rest of the time just experimenting. Or enjoying the show.

4
Focus, Man (Woman)! AND Turn Off That Gosh Darn Flash!

Safeco Mariner's Star Wars Fireworks Show 2015. Brad Puet

This should be fairly obvious, but in shooting something in the distance, make sure to tap your screen to lock on the actual firework explosion to make sure that’s what’s in focus, and not the buildings, or worse, the heads of the people in front of you.

And as for that flash of yours, do you really think you’re going to light the sky? Your flash will light foreground objects, and fireworks in the sky are not foreground objects. That’s all I will say about that. Well until my next mobile photography tips article where I will need to remind readers. =)

5
Aye Eye, Captain. Steady She Goes!

Safeco Mariner's Star Wars Fireworks Show 2015. Brad Puet

A shaky hand, even in the teeniest way, kills the photo. You’ll be shooting with your mobile device, so use something like Joby’s Griptight Microstand. Though I'm still a fanboy of the original GorillaPod from Joby, which can prop up any of the above, and lets you safely tether it to a railing, a tree, or just prop it on a stoop.