LOS ANGELES — Looking to nab some great smartphone shots of the July 4th fireworks Thursday night?
Look no further than Burst Mode, the top pick in our annual rundown of tips and tricks to offer readers. Ready everyone? Let’s run through them:
Be all charged up and ready to go
Most smartphones are nearly dead at nighttime, after a full day’s use. So try and pick up get a second charge during dinner, or bring along an external battery pack, like a Mophie or Anker portable charger to the fireworks. They range from $50 to $100.
Pick your spot and stick with it
Any fireworks scene is likely to be quite crowded. Try to arrive early, and grab the best spot you can, ideally one with a wide view of the sky, sans distractions. Take some tests before deciding where to be.
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That Burst Mode we mentioned
Recent iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones have a cool, overlooked feature called Burst Mode, which allows you to hold your finger down on the shutter and shoot dozens (even hundreds) of photos in zippy succession. This frees you from worrying about having to snap the shutter at the perfect moment. This way you catch everything. Your phone will capture many images for you to choose from, and select what it deems is the one best. If you’d like to override the robot, you have that option as well. On the iPhone or Galaxy, click SELECT under the image, to see all the images and add the keepers by clicking the ones you want.
And remember that you can’t go burst mode all night long. Eventually, the camera will have to take a breath and have the memory catch up with you. So be prepared to take a pause if you use this approach.
If impressing your friends on social media is the goal, nothing screams awesome photography like a short video of the display. Don’t bore your audience with a 5- or 10-minute clip. Instead, wait for one burst to complete, then start recording, and end it after the burst. The beauty of this approach is you can upload it directly from the fireworks display on your phone, and if you love any of the shots, you can also take a screenshot to share.
One of the coolest smartphone photography tricks is making use of Panorama mode, which lets you turn a wide angle shot into a super-wide masterpiece. What better time to go panorama than on the 4th of July, when the skies are alive with color?
Remember that to make a great panorama, you don’t need to go all 360 degrees. I like to shoot mini-panoramas, just enough to make the original wide shot a little wider, without asking my social media fans to have to put their fingers on the screen and flick the image from left to right.
To make a great panorama, keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and don’t move them, extending your body from left to right instead.
Pick your first spot, put the camera into a vertical position, click record, move your body to get as much of the action in as you can, and then depress the shutter button. Check out your work by enlarging the preview from below. Look good? If not, try again, until you get it right.
Most iPhones and the Google Pixel have a single lens that’s good for medium, wide and portraits. If you want to go wider without reaching for the Pano trick, many companies will happily sell you a wide angle lens that screws over the smartphone camera. Or, if you have the new Samsung Galaxy S10 phones, they come with three main lenses, a super wide, wide and portrait lens. Opt for ultra wide before shooting. A lens and a case (which you’ll need to screw the lens over the phone) sells for $150. The popular Olloclip lenses are considerably cheaper, at $39.99, but not as high quality as the Moment lenses.
My all-time favorite iPhone camera trick is a hidden feature called Long Exposure, and it can only be accessed if you shoot with Apple’s Live Photos enabled. That’s the tool that throws in a few seconds of video footage on top of your photo.
These are fun to look at on the phone, but hard to share as regular .JPG photos on social media. To try this: After you snap the shot, swipe up on the image, and four Apple tricks become available to you, Live, Loop, Bounce and Long Exposure.
Loop runs the video without stopping, while Bounce runs it forward and backward. Long Exposure brings a slow shutter, dreamy look to your image. I usually use it for shots of water, and the effect makes it appear like the water is flowing.
Give it a try on the fireworks and see if you don’t get long flowing streaks of colors on the edges of the fire display.
The best thing about Long Exposure is that you’re not stuck with it. Apply the tool, and if you like it, share it to Instagram or Facebook. If you don’t like it, bring the photo back to normal and share it that way.
Have questions about fireworks and photography? We’re here to help. Ask away on Twitter, where I’m @jeffersongraham