Fourth of July is the ultimate day for seeing fireworks light up the night sky, with plenty of shows planned in and around Charlotte for the holiday weekend.
But capturing the perfect fireworks picture to remember your holiday is often easier said than done, even in an era where plenty of us have access to high-quality cameras right on our phones.
Going a little further than just pointing and shooting can go a long way towards helping you spruce up your Instagram feed.
Here are some tips from The Charlotte Observer’s award-winning photography team to help you get the most out of your fireworks photo shoot:
Invest in a tripod
One of the easiest ways to step up your photography game is to invest in a tripod, Observer staff photographer Alex Slitz advises.
“A tripod is very important for your average photographer,” he said, even if you’re just planning to take pictures on your phone.
“They make little clips that you can get at Target or wherever,” he said.
Pay attention to your settings
Making sure your settings are set is critical to getting good photos, Slitz advises, especially when taking photos of fireworks, because changing focus and light can make it hard to land in the right spot.
A “very low base ISO” — 100 or 200 — is a good place to start, he advises. And “you want to stay in manual mode all the time.”
“You can kind of adjust the exposure from there,” he said. “Anywhere from half-a-second to a minute.”
Even if you’re shooting on an iPhone rather than a camera, you can still play with your settings, Slitz notes. On many models, you can go toggle on “Exposure adjustment” and “Creative controls” in your camera settings and will then be able to adjust more settings in your camera app.
“You get a lot more leeway on the iPhone, almost like a professional camera,” Slitz said.
Put more than just fireworks in your photos
A good firework photo, in Slitz’s view, often includes more than just fireworks.
“Have people in the foreground, or a building … Here in Charlotte, maybe try to get some of the skyline in the foreground,” Slitz recommends.
Incorporating more elements in your photos will make them more intriguing, he explains.
“It’s not just fireworks, it gives context, and we’re gonna get a little bit more interesting.”
Try out a photo editing app
In today’s day and age, there are plenty of ways to edit your photos after taking them, even just from your phone.
Slitz recommends the Adobe Lightroom app, which requires a subscription to access all of the tools it has to offer but notes that there are also free apps available.
A photo editing app will allow you to play with things like exposure after the fact to help correct “if you miss it a little bit” when taking your photos, he explains.
Take plenty of photos
Another key element to capturing the perfect photo, per Slitz, is having plenty of pictures to choose from.
“It’s all about experimenting with this type of picture,” he said, “because it’s so unpredictable … Just let that motor drive rip and hope you get something that pops out.”