It just wouldn't be the Fourth of July without the climactic boom of fireworks. If you want to keep that memory all year—or at least share it with all of your friends on Instagram—these tips will help you get lovely photos with your phone, even if you're not a pro.
Some people roll up to the fireworks with a tripod and a fancy DSLR. (If you're one of those people, this handy guide from PCMag should help.) But if you're like us, you'll show up full of American beer, BBQ, and patriotism. The only tool at your disposal? Your smartphone. Here's how to take photos of fireworks that don't suck—no fancy apps or art school degree required.
• Pick a good spot in advance: Before the fireworks even start, you should try to get yourself in a good position: staying upwind of the fireworks will keep the smokey aftermath of previous blasts from gumming up your shot.
• Get steady: Remember, you're taking photos at night so a little bit of shakiness from slower shutter speeds can turn your photo into a blurry mess. Brace yourself against a picnic table or even sit down on the ground if possible. If you're in a crowd, get cozy with your neighbor for support.
• Frame before you shoot: Figure out where in the sky fireworks are blowing up and position your phone in advance. You don't want to chase the shot, you want your phone to be in the right place already.
• Use the AE/AF lock: Once your phone's in position, don't take your shot right away. On the iPhone and many Android phones tapping the screen locks in the exposure and focus for your shot. Use one firework for metering, and then take the photo of the next.
• Don't be afraid of portrait mode: Usually we loathe portrait mode, but here's one instance where it might capture a better photo. This is not an ordinary snapshot. Depending on the scenery and your perspective, both landscape and portrait photos might work well—heck even experiment with crooked angles to see what gets the best results.
• Don't zoom: We realize that the fireworks are SO FAR AWAY but the digital zoom on camera phones is only an illusion. Don't use it. You can always crop the photo later.
• Keep it native: Speaking of later, third-party apps introduce additional lag to your phone's camera. Keep your timing sharp by using your built-in camera app, and upload it to Instagram later.