5 Tips for Taking Better Fireworks Photos with iPhone

Jul 4, 2014 - 22 Comments

Take Fireworks Pictures with the iPhone

Heading out to watch a fireworks show (it is the 4th of July you know) and plan to use your iPhone as your primary camera? Be sure to use these five tricks for taking the best possible fireworks pictures with your iPhone… it’s not quite a DSLR, but with some proper technique you can still capture great firework images with the iPhone.

1: Enable HDR & Keep Original Version

HDR takes multiple photos at different exposures, then automatically combines them together into a single image using software. For shooting something like fireworks, HDR can be particularly advantageous because the different exposure images often capture light-trails and other details that a single image may not capture.

Turning HDR on is easy, once you’re in the Camera app just tap on the “HDR Off” button until it’s highlighted in yellow and says “HDR On”.

HDR On for iPhone Camera

You’ll also want to keep the original picture because it lets you determine which is the best image to keep. If the HDR version is crummy, ditch it and keep the original, or vice versa. If you turned that feature off, just turn it back on again: Settings > Photos & Camera > Keep Normal Photo

2: Use Exposure Lock for Optimal Lighting

Once you get a picture or two that you’re happy with, use Exposure Lock to lock in the exposure details so that your future fireworks shots will come out just as good.

Exposure Lock is super easy to enable, just tap and hold on the camera screen in the region where you want to lock the exposure and lighting to. You’ll know it’s on when “AE/AF LOCK” appears at the top of the Camera screen in yellow.

AE / AF Lock for iPhone

Using Exposure Lock also locks the focus, which for shooting distant objects doesn’t matter quite as much, but as of now there’s no way to lock exposure separately from focus.

3: Take Many Pictures & Shoot Often

Shooting often is the dirty secret of most professional digital photographers, they make take 100 pictures and only keep a handful that turned out particularly great. You can apply that same theory to your iPhone shots when capturing tricky lighting situations like fireworks. There’s not much to this, so just take a lot of pictures with HDR, and later in the evening when the firework show is over you can go through and cull the images you don’t want anymore.

4: Try Burst Mode

iPhone Burst Mode takes many photos in rapid succession, which is great for moving objects. Sometimes this can work well with fireworks too, so try it out. It’s easy to use, just hold down the Camera button to shoot photos in bursts. This is sort of a variation of the above trick, which is to shoot a lot of pictures. You’ll want to

Optional: Try Slow Shutter Cam

SlowShutterCam is a third party app that allows you to take light trail and motion blur images by leaving the iPhone lens ‘open’ like a traditional camera. Slow Shutter Cam works surprisingly well, but for best results you’ll want to keep the iPhone very still, either using a tripod (yes they make mini-tripods for the iPhone) or by improvising and leaning the iPhone against an object like a picnic table or an upside down hotdog bun.

Whatever you use and whatever you try, have fun out there! Enjoy the fireworks!

Use iPhone Camera to Take Pictures of Fireworks

Bonus Tips!

(Firework pictures shown here are modified versions of imagery found on Wikipedia, used and modified under their respective CC licensing. Original pictures are located here and here)


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. FrequentReader says:

    Paul, your tips are great. Thank you!

    Now here’s one for you.
    The next time someone posts an ugly, divisive rant, just delete it. Keep the rest of us from getting ulcers instead of just enjoying what you write plus helpful comments from others.

  2. Issis says:

    Great tips, just in time. BTW, I just shot the Capital Fourth fireworks on my TV using my Iphone 5c using your HDR and other tips and some of them are first rate … almost like being there! Thanks!

  3. Doug says:

    My fireworks videos on my 6+ are awful… about 40% accurate… most of the detail and colors are not true. Doug aaaspark@yahoo.com

  4. Gebo says:

    Great tips. Even tho I am American I have taken fireworks photos all over the world. Two fav shows: Berlin New Years Eve and Rhinefalls in Switzerland on their version of 4th of July –that’s sort of how our friends their explained it. Happy 4th of July for everyone all over the world esp if u just watched Will Smith in Independence Day!!!!

  5. Gebo says:

    Jealous Much?

  6. Jon says:

    BTW, if you need something to proper up your phone (ie, the round edges on the iPhone 6 don’t support it standing upright or on its side) You can use the wall adapter with the prongs pointing up and place your phone on it’s side or up and down between them.

  7. Paul says:

    Very useful – if not for tomorrow in the UK, the Edinburgh festival is combining next month, which has great fireworks every night all through August.


  8. America says:

    Clearly you are jealous of me. Stop trying to ruin my birthday.

  9. Mike knight says:

    Why this dumb people always leave bad comments.. just be thankful with the tips thats it…

  10. Paul S says:

    Kevin- why don’t u leave the rambling out of your post. I really don’t care whether the rest of the world cares about our holiday or not. I guess it was just too hard for u to simply say “thanks for the tips”. Moron!
    Paul- great tips, thank you!

  11. Jessica S. says:

    I appreciate these tips on taking photos of fireworks with an iPhone. Ignore Kevin

  12. Roy says:

    Thank you for the tips, in my experience, photographing fireworks is tricky.

  13. Kevin says:

    How about you leave the US centric rambling out of your post for god’s sake? The rest of the world don’t give a fat rats about July 4th. Just give us the facts please.

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