The easiest way to watch, save and share your videos.

10 Video Shooting Tips for Capturing 4th of July Fireworks with a Phone

by Tom Volotta on July 2, 2012

video shooting tips for capturing fireworksFireworks mesmerized cultures in Asia and Europe centuries before 4th of July pyrotechnics became a tradition marking the United States’ Declaration of Independence in 1776. This year, many people have the ability to record video of the fireworks using the smartphone they carry in their pocket or purse.

There’s nothing like being at an actual fireworks event. The brilliant explosions of color, the booming and popping of the displays, along with the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the crowd are all thrilling. Shooting video with your smartphone is perhaps the most convenient way to preserve that excitement and share it with others.


Capturing video of brightly colored fireworks contrasted against a dark sky can be challenging. That said, there’s no need to be intimidated. By following a few simple video shooting tips, even first-timers can use their smartphones to create dramatic videos they’ll be proud to show off, even on their big screen HDTV. Smartphone video capabilities eclipse what even good quality camcorders could produce only a few years ago.

Captured great footage of the fireworks? With RealPlayer you can share the video fast on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and more or email it to friends. It’s that easy!


The premise here is that you are either just starting out shooting mobile phone videos, or may have a little experience shooting in daylight or a well-lit room. Making videos of fireworks at night is a bit different, but many techniques apply in all situations.

The other assumption is that you’re just using a standard smartphone. No special add-on lenses, no tripod or other stabilizing device, and no external microphones. You also haven’t yet delved into the dizzying array of software Apps for iOS (Apple) or Android (HTC, Samsung, Motorola) smartphones to enhance shooting, editing, and other capabilities for mobile video devices.

Aside from the dynamic quality of the fireworks, shooting video will probably yield better results than trying to capture photographic stills with a cell phone. Since fireworks are moving, the inherent ability of capturing motion video is an advantage. Still photos can be smeared if exposure and shutter speed aren’t right – something that can’t really be controlled in smartphones. If needed, decent screen grabs can be made from the video directly on the phone.


1.    Turn the light/flash OFF

It certainly isn’t going to help get better video of the fireworks, and will only annoy everyone around you.

2.    Steady as she goes

Nobody likes watching shaky video. Keep the smartphone as steady as possible. The fireworks will provide all the action. If you aren’t able to prop against something solid, tuck you arms in, close to your sides. The further out you extend your arms, the harder it is to hold a steady shot. To help reduce the shakes, many smartphones use the + volume button or have a dedicated button on the side of the phone to start and stop recording.

3.    Camera movement

If you DO want to move, use your whole body to pan left or right, or tilt up or down. You’ll get smoother results than moving the camera with your hands or arms.

4.    Zoom, Zoom

If your smartphone video has zoom capability (most only zoom for the still camera), don’t over do it. The zoom will be digital, not optical. This blows the image up, making the focus less than sharp. If you must get closer or further from the subject while shooting, walk as smoothly as possible. Careful, it’s dark out there.

5.    Record at high resolution

Many mobile video cameras shoot at their best quality all the time. That’s good. Check the user guide to see if resolutions can be changed. Newer models offer the capability to capture HD video at 1080p or 720p. For now, 1080p is as good as it gets.

6.    Exposure

Typically, there’s not much you can do here. A few products have limited controls, but most are auto-exposure. The available light is going to be the fireworks. Don’t worry though. You’ll get surprisingly good results shooting bright, colored bursts of light on a dark night.

7.    Focus

Here again, there are limitations. Typically, touching an image on the screen makes the camera autofocus on that object, but it does vary among different phone models. For fireworks shows, there really won’t be a foreground, mid-range and background to choose from. Everything is long distance. Just touch on the first round of fireworks going off to autofocus and you’ll be fine.

8.    Sound

Getting better, but usually a weak spot for almost all mobile video devices. The built-in microphone(s) is best for close-in work. You’ll get the booming of the fireworks ok though. Just be sure you’re not covering the microphone port with a finger.

9.    Shoot some cutaways for variety and editing

You may want to turn your fireworks video into something more than just the bombs bursting in the air. If there’s a crowd of people or family and friends behind you, turn around and shoot the reflection of the fireworks on them. Record yourself, too. You can easily do this by using the front-facing camera on the phone. Most new smartphones come with a front-facing camera that can record video at a lower resolution. Also, see if you can get behind the people and shoot the fireworks with them in the foreground as a silhouette to the fireworks. These scenarios will give your video a more creative touch.

10. Bring an extra battery and memory

That is if your smartphone allows it. Shooting video eats up a lot of memory and can drain the battery rapidly. Several Android phones enable swapping batteries, and have slots for microSD memory cards. If you can’t do either, at least make sure the battery is fully charged.


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that video is rapidly becoming a popular choice for person-to-person communication, sharing with groups, business, education and of course entertainment. Video represents over half the consumer traffic on the Internet, and mobile video accounts for an ever-growing segment.

Let us know how your mobile phone videos of the 4th of July fireworks turned out. You can even leave us a comment with a link to your uploaded video on YouTube. Please pass along other video shooting tips that worked for you, and feel free to ask about any of the ones above.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 bradley July 5, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I didn’t get to record the fireworks. Did you see all the videos of people who caught the San Diego fireworks that were an epic failure?

2 Tom Volotta July 5, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Yeah. Watched a dozen different versions. Amazing to see all that firepower going off at once, but a lot of people were disappointed the show was over in a flash.


3 eric July 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I couldn’t use all of your suggestions, since I was 75 feet above the fireworks and was inside. I think it turned out pretty well considering. Here’s my video:

4 Tom Volotta July 9, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Hey, not bad at all. Yeah, the video looks pretty good, especially considering you were such a long ways from the fireworks, and shooting through a glass window too. The people seen in the reflection off the window don’t interfere with seeing the fireworks. Hearing the chatter and reactions by them to the show actually helps give the video a more personal touch for you to remember the event.

Nice job under less than ideal conditions.

Thanks for following up, and sharing the video.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: