How to take photos of fireworks with your iPhone

Lighting up some fireworks this weekend? Here are some tips on how to photograph them with your iPhone!

The Fourth of July is passed again, However, this year was a bit different. with many places not having public displays of fireworks due to social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. However, you can still find safe 'n' sane fireworks available for sale at stands, and light them up at home as you celebrate with close friends and family. But what if you want to capture those explosive moments with your iPhone? Here are a few tips to help you get the best fireworks photos with just your iPhone.


Use rapid fire

Since fireworks are always moving and ever-changing while they go off in the sky, it can be difficult to capture a single good shot. That's why you should take advantage of your iPhone camera's rapid fire, also known as Burst mode.

With Burst mode, your iPhone is able to quickly take a lot of photos at once, as long as you keep the shutter button held down. Once you release, it stops capturing. iOS intelligently selects what pictures it thinks is the best of the bunch that you took, but you can also go into the stack and check out every single photo that was taken.

Burst mode is a definitely lifesaver to have when it comes to shooting anything that's moving or changing direction, especially fireworks, so take advantage of it!

How to take and select 'burst mode' photos

  1. Launch the Camera app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Frame the scene that you want to capture as normal.
  3. On iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, press and swipe to the left in quick succession for Burst mode capture. If you are using an iPhone XS or earlier, then just press and hold the shutter button to initiate Burst mode capture.

    • iOS will select what it thinks the best picture out of the bunch. If you don't like what it chose, you can pick your own.

    Launch Camera, press and swipe to the left for burst capture

  4. Tap on the thumbnail in the bottom left corner after your burst capture.
  5. Tap on the Burst mode stack that you want to view.
  6. Tap Select...
  7. Tap the blue checkmark on the photos you want to keep.
    • A gray dot appears below the thumbnail scrubber for the images with best focus and composition.
  8. Tap Done after making your decision on what to keep.
  9. Tap Keep Everything if you want to keep all images in the stack, or Keep Only (number) Favorites to trash the ones you didn't pick.

    Find your Burst mode stack, tap Select, choose your favorites, tap Done and select what you want to keep

  10. After all that, the selected photos are ungrouped and in your Camera Roll.


Make use of Night mode

If you have an iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or iPhone 11 Pro Max, then you have access to the powerful new Night mode feature. With Night mode, the iPhone pulls in as much light as possible from the environment to brighten up photos taken in low-light situations. Basically, the shutter stays open longer to pull in that extra light. This can work wonders for fireworks if used correctly.

The only thing about Night mode is that you will need to hold your iPhone still during that length of time for Night mode to work (it ranges from 1 second to 10 seconds). Otherwise, you may end up with a bad, blurry photo. However, Night mode is usually automatically set at 3 seconds, but you can also manually adjust the length of time for the exposure if needed. Even at 1-second, the results are pretty good, and a big improvement over photos without Night mode.

I used Night mode to capture fireworks at Disneyland, and the results were pretty fantastic. So if you do have an iPhone 11 series device, give Night mode a try.


How to use Night mode on iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro

When you open the Camera app on the iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro in a dimly lit room, you'll automatically see the Night mode button highlighted. Hold your hand as steady as possible and tap the shutter button to take the picture. Depending on how dark it is, it'll take a few seconds to complete the process, so hold still!

  1. Open the Camera app on the iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro.
  2. Prepare your composition for the photo you want to take.
  3. Tap the Shutter button.
  4. Hold your hand still while the photo is being taken. You'll see a timer letting you know how long the shot is taking and how far along you are.
  5. Tap the photo thumbnail in the bottom-left corner to see how it turned out.

    Open Camera, tap shutter, tap thumbnail

When you tap the shutter button in Night mode, a timer slider appears to show you the number of seconds it will take to capture the image. The timer will count down as you hold the camera steady. If you're shaking too much, the camera will notify you and remind you to hold still.

How to manually change the level of Night mode effect

Night mode automatically turns on and automatically decides how much effect to use, depending on the lighting in the room. If you want to increase or decrease the level of the effect, you can do so manually, but don't expect great results. That automation is there for a reason.

  1. Open the Camera app on the iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro.
  2. Prepare your composition for the photo you want to take.
  3. Tap the Night mode button when it appears.
  4. Swipe the timer dial to the right or left to choose between turning Night Mode off, keeping it at its default time, or its maximum time (often 9 or 10 seconds).

    Open Camera, tap Night mode button, swipe dial

  5. Tap the shutter button to take your photo. Keep your hand still while the timer counts down.
  6. Tap the photo thumbnail in the bottom-left corner to see how it turned out.

    Tap shutter, tap thumbnail

If you drag the slider all the way to the maximum exposure time, but you're holding your iPhone in your unsteady hand, you may not get a very good shot. Remember that Night mode uses an open shutter to capture more light, which means any movement is also captured. If there is too much movement from your unsteady hand, there won't be anything sharp for the camera to stitch together.


Get creative when editing

There are a ton of photo editing apps out there, and iOS even has native editing tools built-in to the Photos app. So it's actually super easy for anyone to edit their photos anywhere, anytime. For a lot of people, editing can be as simple as slapping a filter on an image, or going deeper and making manual adjustments to brightness, contrast, and other things.

But with fireworks, it's a different story. I mean, once you see one picture of a firework exploding, you've pretty much seen them all. You're going to want to think outside the box when editing your photos of fireworks — you want someone to stop at your firework picture and take a closer look, rather than just scrolling on by.

Some interesting ways to edit could involve overlapping multiple firework pictures into one, selective coloring (pick one explosion that keeps the color while turning the others into grayscale), or even clone-stamp one firework and spread it out into a kind of trail. The possibilities are endless here, it just takes a little bit of creative thinking outside the box.

Boomerang it

A Boomerang gif

Have you heard of a Boomerang? It's one of Instagram's separate photo apps, but it's also built in to Instagram as a Story option. Essentially, a Boomerang consists of a burst of photos that are taken and stitched together into a video, which plays forwards and backwards in a repeating loop. Yeah, kind of like a GIF.

When you combine fireworks with Boomerang, the end result is much more appealing than a still photo. Just imagine it — watching a firework explode, then reversing itself and exploding again? It's much more mesmerizing than a boring old photo.

If you're having trouble with figuring out how to make a cool Boomerang, make sure to check out our tips.


Be picky

As you take photos of fireworks, you're going to end up with a lot of similar-looking pictures in your Camera Roll. The same goes for concert photos too — no one really needs to see your dozens of photos that look like the same thing, just with different colors and such.

If you plan on sharing your fireworks photos on social media, then you should go through and pick only the best photos that you took. Ones that really stand out, are unique, or just look really cool to you. But don't post the ones that are blurry, out of focus, or just bad — you're not impressing anyone with those.

You can also make use of those 24-hour social media networks (Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook Stories) to post your fireworks photos too. That way, you won't be flooding the timeline of your friends with fireworks.


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