Monday, July 4, 2016

Photographing Fireworks With A Cell Phone

Neighborhood Fireworks - South Weber, Utah
The very first piece of advice that's usually given to those inquiring how to photograph fireworks is to put your cell phone away. You need a DSLR or something equivalent. But that's not necessarily true.

I recently purchased an LG G4 cell phone, and the camera is surprisingly capable. I didn't have any intentions of photographing fireworks with it, but last night one of my neighbors was shooting fireworks practically over my backyard (not quite, but it seemed that way). So I grabbed a little cell phone tripod I have and pulled the G4 out of my pocket. Very quickly I was capturing the colorful explosions in the sky.

Patriotic Explosion - South Weber, Utah
I put the camera in manual mode, using ISO 100 and an eight second exposure. I manually focused to infinity. I set the camera to capture in RAW and used auto-white-balance. I used the camera's three-second self-timer to ensure no camera shake. The aperture is permanently set to f/1.8 on the G4. Afterwords I post-processed the RAW files using Google's Snapseed.

The results? Not bad, but not great. The limited dynamic range of the camera shows up in the easily blown highlights. I pushed the shadows up, which increased the digital noise. There are some flaws. I could have improved the images if I had post-processed them on my computer using a more powerful software, but I didn't have time for that.

It's certainly possible to photograph fireworks with your cell phone. The results might not be quite as good as those from a DSLR, but they might not be all that far off, either. Sometimes convenience trumps quality (and sometimes not).
Watering The Lawn With Fire - South Weber, Utah
Fire In The Dusk Sky - South Weber, Utah
Bombs Bursting In Air - South Weber, Utah
An Explosion In The Sky - South Weber, Utah

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