EE top tip: How to photograph fireworks on your Samsung smartphone

7 November 2018


With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, you can expect to see lots of fireworks lighting up the night sky.

Fireworks are notoriously difficult to photograph, but some fine-tuning of your smartphone camera’s manual settings should help you capture that kaleidoscope of colour.

Here’s our top tips for photographing fireworks on your smartphone:

Turn off the flash

It may be dark outside, but you don’t need a flash to brightencyour photos. Turn your flash off and let the light from the fireworks take centre-stage. They should look stunning against a black backdrop or dimly lit setting.

Avoid using zoom

Zooming in can make your photos look grainy, let the light in your image appear too intense and run the risk of cutting out parts of your photo. You can always crop images later on if you want them to appear closer.

Slow the shutter speed

By keeping the shutter open for longer, you’re allowing the sensor to be exposed to light for longer. This helps you capture even more of the intricate detail from your fireworks – the falling sprinkles of flickering fire and the epic explosions that light up the sky.

If the shutter speed is too fast, you’re likely to just see little blips of light, because the sensor hasn’t had time to soak up all the detail from your fireworks. Anything from about one second to up to 10 seconds works when using a tripod, but without one you’ll need to keep it to a couple of seconds maximum to avoid motion blur – though built-in optical image stabilisation helps to improve results as longs as there’s no serious shaking.

To change the shutter speed, open your camera and scroll across to ‘Pro’ at the top of your display. Then click on the aperture icon, which looks like a lens (it’s next to the ISO icon). Scroll the yellow bar from left to right to choose your shutter speed.

fireworks photographed on a smartphone

Use Burst mode

One way to reduce the amount of movement when taking a photo is to use Burst mode. Using Burst Mode is easy - press the shutter button once, then holding it down to take multiple shots rapidly.

It’s not as ideal as using a tripod with a remote shutter, but it should help to cut down the amount of motion blur significantly and enhances your chances of capturing at least one stunning firework photo.

The bigger the aperture the better

Some Samsung smartphones let you adjust the aperture of your camera lens. The Galaxy S9, S9+ and Note9 all feature dual aperture lenses. Set the aperture to F1.5 mode when you click on Pro mode, which can be found at the top of the screen when you open your camera.  

This opens the hole in the lens to let in more light and means you can turn the ISO right down.

Lower the ISO

High ISOs let in lots of light, but also produce noisy images. Go into Pro mode and set the ISO on your Samsung to its lowest level (usually 50). With a wide aperture and slower shutter speed, enough light will still make it into your photos.

Set the manual focus to ‘infinity’

Give your Samsung smartphone camera a helping hand by setting the focus to ‘infinity’. This basically tells the lens to focus on subjects in the distance, which after all is where your fireworks will be.

To change this setting, go to Pro mode, click on the Manual Focus icon and pull the slider towards the icon on the right which looks like a mountain. And remember to pull the slider back towards the flower icon when you start taking photos of people again, otherwise they’ll appear blurry.

Reduce motion blur with a tripod

Opting for a slow shutter speed means you’ll be able to capture more detail, making your firework photos look epic. But it also means the shutter will be open for longer and any slight movements will blur your image. You’ll need to keep your smartphone completely still and the best way to do this is with a tripod.

If using a tripod isn’t practical, you’re going to have to try and avoid any shaking while taking your photos, and possibly opt for a faster shutter speed – though not too fast or your photos are likely to lack any real detail.

Or you can cheat… record a video and screenshot the best bits

For a fuss-free way of taking stunning photos of fireworks, use this quick cheat. Record a video of the fireworks at the best quality your phone can manage (go for 4K if possible). Then flick through the clip frame by frame. When you find an image you love simply take a screenshot, save it, make all your edits and upload it online.

Check out our top tips for taking low-light photos > 

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