(Photo by Michael Paul Willis / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Fourth of July is just around the corner, which means it’s time to gather up the family, fire up the barbecue, and check out your local fireworks displays!  While the best way to capture amazing fireworks photos is with a professional DSLR, that doesn’t mean you can’t still snap some decent shots with your iPhone.  You will need a little preparation and know-how first however if you want to avoid a camera roll filled with out of focus, blurry abstract shots.

Location, Location, Location

You’ll probably want a good spot to see the fireworks anyway, but it’s even more important when you intend to take pictures.  You’ll want a clear view, preferably upwind so the smoke doesn’t interfere with your picture taking.  Try to pick a spot where it’s less likely that other people will obstruct your iPhone’s view.  You’ll also want to think about what will be visible in the foreground or background of your shots.  Are there any interesting landmarks nearby?  Can you manage to capture a shot of the crowd below the fireworks?  Can you frame the fireworks explosions with trees, buildings or other structures in an interesting way?  Think about these things as you pick your spot.

Steady As She Goes

Ideally, you’ll want to use a tripod for this photo shoot, even if it’s just a small GorillaPod or other budget solution.  If you don’t have a tripod, try to have a surface to steady your iPhone against as you take pictures, like a picnic table or park bench.  You can get away with holding your iPhone in your hands in well lit environments, but taking night time shots like these will be unforgiving to even the steadiest of hands.

No Flash Photography

The iPhone’s flash is only powerful enough to illuminate objects a few feet in front of it – there is simply no point to using your flash while taking pictures of fireworks displays.  In fact, the flash may result in taking worse photos by illuminating your neighbor’s head or a nearby tree and thereby eliminating the true focus of your photography.  If these are not reason enough to sway you – it’s potentially distracting to other fireworks viewers to have bright flashes a few feet from their face.  Turn off your flash, you just won’t need it.

Know Your Shutter Lag

It’s a sad fact of iPhone photography – there is a delay between when you tap the shutter button and when your iPhone actually takes the picture.  Get to know yours ahead of time by taking some practice shots.  You can likely decrease the lag by closing other apps and using the iPhone’s native photo capture software.  There are other apps which are designed specifically for taking pictures of fireworks or lightning – these may or may not improve your results.  While you’re at it – disable HDR as well.  This won’t improve your pictures in these conditions and will only increase the lag.


In order to take a clear photo, you’ll need to use the iPhone’s focus lock feature.  During the first firework blast, lock the exposure and focus on that initial explosion by tapping and holding the center of the screen.  Now you can snap pictures of the remaining show without worrying about refocusing your iPhone camera.

Quantity Results in Quality

Take a lot of shots.  A whole lot of shots.  Between the lag and your own reaction time, it’s likely you’ll miss the “perfect” shot if you try to wait for it.  Instead, take as many shots as you can, as quickly as you can.   While many of them may be mundane, odds are you’ll snap some gorgeous gems in the process just by luck.

If All Else Fails, Switch to Video

The iPhone is capable of taking some outstanding high definition video.  If you’re just not getting acceptable results taking still shots, you can still share your Fourth of July experience by switching to video capture instead.

Need more inspiration?  Check out these amazing fireworks photos we found – every single one was taken with an iPhone!  

(Photo by mohammed alfailakawi CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

(Photo by Kayleigh / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


(Photo by Courtney McGough / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

(Photo by Sherwood411 / CC BY-NC 2.0)

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