Photographing fireworks is challenging no matter which kind of camera you use. Last week I went to Linz, Austria, to shoot a firework at a local funfair, called “Urfahraner Markt.” The firework happens right near the Danube and is best watched (and photographed) from a nearby bridge called “Nibelungenbrücke.” So, first, here are a few sample shot of the fireworks I took with the iPhone.
Here are the apps and gear I used to photograph this firework with iPhone:
- A tripod and iPhone tripod mount
- A remote shutter release
- Slow Shutter Cam App
Tripod and iPhone tripod mount
You can use basically any tripod with iPhone, provided you have a proper iPhone tripod mount. I use the Joby Griptight and Griptight Pro mounts. For those fireworks photos, I used the Joby Griptight Pro mount.
Slow Shutter Cam App
This app does all the magic when photographing fireworks with iPhone. Slow Shutter Cam App is an essential iPhone camera app that enables you to take long exposures with iPhone.
You can even set the shutter speed to bulb which allows you to start and stop the exposure any time which is what I used to photograph this firework with iPhone.
Remote Shutter Release
A remote shutter release is also essential when taking photos of fireworks with an iPhone. As you’re going to take long exposures, pressing the shutter release on iPhone may cause it to shake, and thus you’ll get blurry photos.
I also tried using the timer that’s built into Slow Shutter Cam App in previous attempts to photograph fireworks with iPhone, but that didn’t work out for me. I missed many good shots this way.
I also recommend using a remote shutter release that you can operate without looking at it simply because your eyes should be at the sky where the firework happens, so you don’t miss a thing. The “one-knob” Joby Impulse is just perfect for that.
Preparing your iPhone and Slow Shutter Cam App to photograph fireworks
Once you’ve set up your tripod, you should take care of a few iPhone and Slow Shutter Cam App settings
- First, turn off auto-lock in the iPhone Settings. You usually don’t have much time when photographing fireworks; so you don’t want to waste time unlocking your iPhone if it accidentally locks and turns off.
- Then, switch to light trail mode in Slow Shutter Cam App
- Based from learnings from previous attempts to photograph fireworks with an iPhone, I set light sensitivity to 1/2
- I set shutter speed to bulb. More on that in a minute
- Set ISO to 80 to avoid noise as much as possible.
Once we’ve applied the above settings, tap on an object in the distance on thescreen to set focus and exposure. And now, the most crucial part, we’ll lock AE and AF in Slow Shutter Cam app to avoid the autofocus kicking in. You do that by taping the AE and AF icons in the toolbar, so they turn to a lock.
Photographing fireworks with iPhone
Here’s a pro tip, before you start to photograph: Slow Shutter Cam App is capable of doing multiple exposures into one, single, frame. The trick here is to have auto save turned off in Slow Shutter Cam App. Then, after you take a photo, Slow Shutter Cam App usually displays a little toolbar at the bottom of the screen asking you if you’d like to discard, edit or save your photo.
Don’t tap any of those options. Just press the shutter release again, and you’ll create a second exposure in the same frame. This is how I got this photo, which is actually four exposures.
To trigger the shutter release, I used the Joby Impulse remote shutter release. It’s small and easy to use – just one button. Now, looking at the sky, I triggered the shutter release whenever I saw the light trail of a firework rocket and pressed the shutter release again 1–2 seconds after it exploded.
That’s why I set the shutter release to bulb mode in Slow Shutter Cam App – to be able to start and end the exposure whenever I needed.
Adjustments you may need to make
Try to take some photos right when the firework was set off. Use those photos to validate the settings we made. If the photo looks too bright in the sense that you just see bright, white, light instead of colors of the exploding rockets, you may need to turn down light sensitivity a notch from, e.g., 1/2 to 1/4. Don’t turn up ISO, or the black, nightly sky may become quite noisy.
Now, let’s take some great iPhone photos of fireworks together.
About the Author
Chris Feichtner is Vienna, Austria-based photographer with 10 years of experience shooting events and concerts until 2012, when he ditched his big cameras and switched to travel and iPhone only photography. You can see more of his work on his website or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here and shared with permission.