5 Smartphone Tips to Photograph New Year's Fireworks

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Laila Afifa

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  • Fireworks explode around the Selamat Datang Monument during New Year's Eve celebrations in Jakarta, January 1, 2019. ANTARA

    Fireworks explode around the Selamat Datang Monument during New Year's Eve celebrations in Jakarta, January 1, 2019. ANTARA

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The breathtaking fireworks display during New Year’s Eve celebrations can not just overwhelm any pair of eyes witnessing it, but also your smartphone’s software as you attempt to document the annual event.

    There are a plethora of fireworks photography tips from numerous websites for dedicated photographers. However, in the era of cheap DSLRs and mirrorless digital cameras, the 'average Joe' might often opt to just use a smartphone to quickly shoot pics of New Year’s Eve fireworks. 

    Here are 5 tips on maximizing your smartphone to photograph great pictures of New Year's Eve fireworks:

    1. Hold Your Smartphone Horizontally  

    Before you start, it is helpful to know that a human set of eyes are placed beside each other and not stacked above one another. This is the prime reason to take pictures horizontally as it is longer in length from side-to-side.

    This way also produces pictures with a sense of vastness and gives out a sense of the scale of the location you are shooting. But this rule does not apply if you find a building or monument as a reference to be composed together with the firework’s path. 

    Imagine it this way; if you are standing just 10-meters from Jakarta's Monas (national monument) or Malaysia's Petronas Towers, and the fireworks’ path is behind the historical object, it would be justifiable to take vertical shots (longer top to bottom). However, if you are hundreds of meters away, it is best to shoot horizontally and show the entirety of both the fireworks and the landmark. 

    1. Use a Tripod or Any Sturdy Object

    Using a tripod simply eliminates shaky fireworks pictures while it lets you hold your frame in a fixed spot - aim at the peak of the firework burst - before the other firework gets shot in the air. 

    Don’t have a tripod? Don’t worry, you can always use any sturdy objects to place your smartphone over so it doesn’t shake as your thumb presses the shutter button. 

    1. Try Using Manual Mode

    Use your smartphone’s manual exposure feature, “expert mode” or “manual mode” in some phones, as it gives you long exposures that will enable you to record images from the firework’s trail to its peak burst.  But of course, the sharpness of the picture depends on your smartphone's technical capabilities. 

    Other than long exposures, this way you can freely decrease the exposure of your shot which helps to darken the surrounding and create pictures that focus on the center of attraction.

    If your smartphone is not equipped with “manual mode” there are a plethora of apps at Playstore or Apple store that provide your phone with this feature. 

    1. HDR Mode and Burst Shots 

    If you think using manual mode or downloading apps is too much of a hassle, you can try using HDR mode or burst mode often found as a base feature in most smartphones. 

    HDR takes several pictures from varying degrees of exposures for each press of the shutter button. The series of frames are then combined by the smartphone’s post-process software that results in a lively image compared to using normal mode. 

    Burst mode can be particularly helpful to capture shots of events that happen quickly as in a New Year’s Eve fireworks bursts. Take burst shots by holding down the shutter button, but remember to time your moment correctly at the fixed spot you already established. 

    1. Do Not Use Digital Zoom

    As you stand in the middle of a crowd gathering to indulge in New Year’s Eve fireworks, you might get the urge to get those pesky silhouettes of people getting into your shot. But using your smartphone’s digital zoom is not the way to go as it dramatically decreases your picture’s resolution.  

    You can always crop your picture later after you have taken the shots as cropping does not lower the picture’s resolution as bad as digitally zooming. 

    RICKY M. NUGRAHA