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5 tips for great fireworks photos with your smartphone

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You too can snap snazzy fireworks photos with your smartphone like Judy Kwong whose photo was recognized in this month's Windows Phone Photo Challenge.

Whether you're celebrating the Fourth of July tomorrow or enjoying any other festivity involving fireworks, you can shoot great fireworks photos with your smartphone. A little planning and some helpful apps may make the task even easier.

1. Plan ahead

Scope out the scene: while fireworks alone can be beautiful, a photograph showing them in context is often more remarkable. The example above from Judy Kwong whose photo was recognized in this month's Windows Phone Photo Challenge tells more of a story than pretty lights alone, offering context and including the reflections on the water.

Decide ahead of time where you'll need to be when the fireworks display begins and plant yourself there. Consider a spot that will let you include an interesting structure, natural feature or perhaps spectators in your shot.

Being prepared also means ensuring your battery is powered up and that you've got enough space on your device to snap as many pictures as you want.

2. Accessorize

There are loads of gadgets and gizmos designed to extend your smartphone's camera capabilities. 

Use a tripod to keep your phone still and control the angle of your lens. One of our favorites is the very portable Joby Grip Tight Micro Stand

The tiny Joby Grip Tight Micro Stand can help keep your mobile fireworks photos in focus.
Smartphone lens accessories can get you closer to the action.

If you'll be far away from the action, you might also try a telephoto lens add-on. We recently reviewed the Photojojo Phone Lens Series, which includes a 2x telephoto lens. Most such telephoto accessories we've seen for smartphones produce some vignetting; a dark night scene may make this easier to ignore, but be sure to center your subject for best results.

You can also get crafty and make your own accessory at home with our blueprints for a DIY smartphone case that does almost everything.

3. Use an app or make the most of your phone's settings

Apps abound for fireworks photography. 

We've found NightCap and Slow Shutter Cam amongst the best for iOS, with each offering exposure settings and manual shutter control for more careful low-light shots. One of our all-around favorite iPhone apps, KitCam, recently added a night mode (note that since Yahoo's acquisition of its parent company you won't find KitCam App Store, but if you already own the app it will still work).

Android mobilographers should try Night Camera or experiment with the burst mode of Fast Burst Camera.

Windows users should give Blink a try: the app captures a burst of images and lets you save the best ones. There's also Pro Shot for Windows Phone 8 which offers control over shutter speed, ISO, white balance, focus and flash. 

4. Make the most of your mobile

Some phones like the HTC One, Nokia Lumia 920 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 offer a night mode and manual control over ISO that may make for a better fireworks photo. Experiment to see what works best (but see tip #1: do this ahead of time.)

5. Don't use flash, HDR or zoom

Your smartphone's flash will only illuminate the 10 feet in front of you, blowing out the crowd in front of you (while likely annoying them) and making the explosive night sky seem even darker. Just turn it off.

HDR won't help here either, so make sure this setting is also turned off.

Don't bother zooming in. Digital zoom reduces image quality and adds graininess. If you need to get closer, use your feet.

Have fun and share your best shots!

We want to see your best fireworks photos: Use the hashtag #dprconnect_fireworks to show off your shots.

Comments

Total comments: 3
madeinlisboa
By madeinlisboa (Jul 4, 2013)

I have a better one: don't use a smartphone!

1 upvote
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (Jul 4, 2013)

And just a buy a sub 50$ camera.

1 upvote
7ape
By 7ape (Jul 4, 2013)

lightning cam is also pretty useful for grabbing firework pics.

http://25.media.tumblr.com/7568faf8bcc62c8563a5a2ec51a04088/tumblr_moj1k3p6231roixl9o1_500.jpg

1 upvote
Total comments: 3
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