The Fourth of July is almost here, which means it's almost time for fireworks. The beautiful arrays of color bursting in the sky are breathtaking to behold IRL, but a challenge to capture in all their glory in a photograph. That is, unless you know the right way to shoot 'em.
Ahead, seven tips to keep in mind when taking photos with your phone this year.
Do: Shoot With An App
Don't: Use A Flash
A flash can be helpful if the lighting is subpar and your subject is roughly 4 to 10 feet from your phone. Fireworks are way farther away than that, so that flash is going to do zilch to help your photo. If you're photographing friends with fireworks in the background, using the flash will illuminate them, but darken the bursts in the sky. And, as PicsArt's Megan Ann Harmon told us, it's easier to edit a darker photo and lighten it than it is to edit an over-exposed photo, anyway.
Do: Use Burst Mode
When you hit the panic moment of, "There's so much happening at once!" it's also time to hit the button — the Burst Mode button. Burst Mode is a setting on most phones these days; on iOS, you can activate it simply by tapping and holding the shutter. When you do that, your phone will snap photos rapid-fire, basically ensuring you've got at least one amazing image from the action. If you're low on phone storage space, though, just be sure to go back through and delete the bunches of burst shots afterwards.
Don't: Just Shoot Fireworks Alone
Capturing more than just fireworks in the sky, like in the image above, gives the fireworks some scope in terms of size, and makes the shot more interesting. Try capturing the crowd in your shot, a few towering skyscrapers, or even the moon. (Fireworks over a body of water make for stunning images, too, due to their reflections.) A selfie stick can also be helpful for snapping unique photos — just be sure not to poke anyone with it, or obstruct people's views by leaving it up in the air for a long time.
Do: Use A Tripod
When shooting fireworks in the dark, it's good to have a steady hand and a long exposure. The longer your phone can absorb light from the fireworks, the more brilliant the shot will be. If you don't have a tripod (such as a $30 JOBY GorillaPod), try steadying your hands on a railing, chair, or the ground. Then, you can try an app such as Slow Shutter Cam ($2 on iOS) or Long Exposure Camera 2 (free on Android) to enable you to snap photos with longer exposures than your phone's default camera app normally allows.
Don't: Forget to Add Music
If photographing fireworks means taking a video in Instagram Stories, try shooting in the new music mode. While you won't find Katy Perry's "Firework" in the song library, there is a version from the cast of Glee that works just fine. Or, if you're going for a more classic approach, there are more than 20 versions of "The Star Spangled Banner" available. If you decide to add the music after filming, mix up your camera mode and try reversing the action with "Rewind".
Do: Edit Images Afterwards
Adjusting the brightness, saturation, and other photo settings can help boost a fireworks shot from "decent" to "great." The Digital Photography Bureau also recommends upping the contrast, so blacks look blacker and the fireworks' colors pop. (For a darker backdrop for your fireworks, be sure to shoot into the east, rather than the west, where the sun sets.)
And one more tip: If you focus your photo snapping towards the beginning of the show, while you may miss out on capturing some of the more epic fireworks arrangements, you'll also miss out on all the smoke in the sky.