With the Fourth of July around the corner, you're probably going to watch some fireworks. And, if you're like most folks, you're going to want to take photos of the show in the skies — with your smartphone.
Like most people, you'll probably be disappointed with what you get. Shooting fireworks is tough — they're hard to capture on any camera, especially a smartphone cam.
But have no fear, we've got a bunch of tips and tricks that should pay off with greater shots.
The basics: Hold the camera steady, or better yet, mount it to a tripod, because you're shooting in low light and need all the steady help you can get.
If you don't want to lug a tripod to the event, invest in a small gorilla pod, which you can clamp to a pole. Or use a selfie stick and hold it really tight.
You're not going to get a close up, of course, but that's OK. A big, wide shot of the night sky should look awesome.
You want to shoot at a slow shutter speed to capture the fireworks' show, but since your camera is automatic, that can be hard to arrange. Many Galaxy phones have a "low light" mode, and even a "fireworks" mode. Try them.
With the iPhone, you'll need to download a special app, Slow Shutter, which overrides auto and brings in a slower shutter speed. Another cool app is Litely, which lets you manually adjust the exposure.
Now let's look at some features in most smartphone cams that will help.
Burst mode: Later iPhones and many Androids have this feature, which lets you take a bunch of photos in a small period of time. This ensures a way to capture fireworks. If your Android phone doesn't have burst mode, download the Burst Mode Camera app from the Google Play store.
Time-lapse: If you'd like to be the coolest person on your block, try shooting the fireworks in time-lapse mode and watch the world fly by at super-high speeds. You can't do it without a tripod, though. Mount the camera, click the time-lapse button and let it roll the entire time. The result is a video showing an accelerated sequence of the photos over time; it'll look pretty cool.
Panoramas: Many smartphones offer the ability to get a big, wide-screen take on the night skies by tapping the arrow on the right-hand side in the camera app and moving from right to left.
Video: Finally, if all else fails... Capturing the fireworks as they burst can be tough for a still photo, but for video, it's a snap. Just let the camera roll once the fireworks start shooting off.
Good luck with your 4th of July shots, and don't forget to be safe and to post your best shots to USA TODAY's Your Take at http://www.usatoday.com/