One question I have been getting over and over in my classes and workshops is “how do I take good photos of fireworks with my iPhone?” The good news is that it is relatively simple as long as you know a few key tricks.
First of all, you don’t need too much fancy gear or even any special apps to capture fireworks with your iPhone. The two things I would recommend are 1) A Tripod, such as the GorillaPod GripTight and 2) The headphones (with volume up and down buttons) that came with your iPhone.
Now for the fun stuff…
1. Find the perfect location
Find an area as close to the action as possible. Since your iPhone doesn’t have an optical zoom you need to make sure that you pick the right spot before the show starts. When looking for a location, keep an eye out for features such as water, buildings, or anything else that can help your overall composition. Speaking of composition, if you intend to include the horizon in your photo keep it near the bottom 3rd of your frame.
2. Do NOT Zoom!
I alluded to this in my first tip, but remember that the iPhone doesn’t have an optical zoom. What that means is that any pinch-to-zooming you do is just going to result in a smaller, grainier, image. And nobody wants that…
3. Turn off your flash
If you have taken one of my workshops you should already have this off by default (because I said do). If not, make sure that you turn it off for the fireworks. That teeny tiny LED on the back of your phone isn’t going to light anything up and it’s just going to confuse the phone.
4. Use Exposure and Focus lock
Many people don’t realize that you can set your exposure and focus in the iPhone by simply holding down on the screen until the “AE/AF Lock” symbol appears. Go ahead and set your focus on a prominent object in your frame, then slide your finger up and down on the screen to lock your exposure. This will ensure that the camera’s meter doesn’t go crazy when the fireworks start blasting all around you.
5. Stabilize your phone
This is where your tripod comes in handy… Any night photography requires a stable platform and this is no different. By making sure your camera isn’t moving you can get a nice long exposure where the only thing moving is the fireworks.
6. Use your headphones to release the shutter
Again, it all comes down to camera shake. By using the volume+ button on your headphones you can make sure that the camera doesn’t move when you release the shutter. It also lets you sit back and enjoy the fireworks without staring at your screen the whole time!
7. Take a LOT of pictures
Photographing fireworks is as much about timing as anything else. You never know when the right moment is going to be, so keep clicking away and don’t be afraid to try burst mode from time to time.
8. Try a slow shutter cam app (optional)
This can be a fun thing to play with, but completely unnecessary. There are lots of specialty cameras on the iPhone app store, and Slow Shutter Cam is a great one to use for fireworks. I leave this tip last because using it right can make some amazing images, but using it wrong will just give you a blurry mess. Maybe give this one a shot once you know you already have a few photos that you love.