SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – As the United States prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July, fireworks displays will light up the night sky for Independence Day celebrations.
If you’re heading to the grandstands to watch a professional fireworks show, pictures never seem to look as good on screen as they did in the sky.
So what is the best way to capture those red, white and blue memories?
PIX11 sister station KELO compiled a list of tips and tricks from Fireworks.com, NikonUSA.com and some of our own news photographers to help you get the best pictures for your photo albums and Instagram feeds.
1. Use a tripod
Both Fireworks.com and Nikon say a tripod is essential for taking pictures of fireworks. Using a tripod eliminates shaky hands, which leads to blurry pictures. But if you don’t own a tripod or don’t want to invest in one, you can make yourself into a “human tripod.”
The first step is to stabilize yourself against something. For example, rest your elbows on something that’s at a comfortable level.
Digital Photography School’s website suggests trying out different positions to find what’s most comfortable. They suggest crouching down and putting your elbows on your knees or laying on your stomach and resting your arms on the ground.
Imagine yourself as a triangle, and your camera is the top point. As long as you’re stabilized and able to hold steady, you should see some changes in the quality of your photos.
2. Turn flash off
Whether you’re using a phone or a DSLR camera, make sure the flash is turned off. Flashes are typically used to light up objects a few feet in from of you, Fireworks.com said. If your phone is equipped with it, use HDR mode. This mode allows you to take pictures with different exposure levels and combines pictures to create a more vivid image.
3. Hold your phone horizontally
Holding your phone horizontally in landscape mode gives you a wider image. This format is more user friendly, and allows you to use the image on multiple platforms. Remember: “Shoot it wide, side to side.”
4. Don’t use zoom
Fireworks.com said using the digital zoom on your phone’s camera can sometimes diminish the quality of your photos. They note that you can always go back and crop the image to cut out hands, trees or other objects in the way.
5. The less exposure, the better
Exposure is the brightness of the photo. If you decrease the exposure, you’ll be able to take a picture of fireworks without it looking too bright or overexposed. If you’re using your phone, tap the screen and it will automatically adjust the exposure. With most phones, if you tap the screen, a sun icon will appear and you can drag up or down to change the exposure. You’ll want to drag down.
As the sun goes down and the excitement builds for the big show, experiment with what works best for you. Make sure you are in a spot with a clear view of the sky.
Fireworks.com suggests experimenting with the live picture and burst modes. If you hold down the button to take the picture, it’ll take multiple images.
If all else fails, start a video of the fireworks display. You can take screenshots during the video to find the best show-stopping explosions.
Newer cell phones let you shoot stills at the same time as video by clicking the white shutter button as you record. However, experts don’t recommend this option because tapping the shutter button may make your video shaky or blurry.
And last but not least, remember to be safe this Fourth of July. Fire experts said it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. How you end your celebration is crucial too, they’ve said.
“You need to properly dispose of fireworks before throwing them in the trash,” said Tyler Tjeerdsma, fire inspector with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue.
Tjeerdsma suggests that people soak the fireworks in water overnight, then wrap them in plastic so they don’t dry out before throwing them away.