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Capturing the "rocket's red glare" of fireworks with your iPhone camera this 4th of July

With the 4th of July holiday rapidly approaching in the US it's time to think of both your backyard and big time municipal fireworks displays, and how to best capture them on your iPhone. The latest generations of cameras on the iPhone have greatly improved, and while still not up to high end DSLR quality, the built in 5 MP camera can take some extraordinarily good images.

Here's the basics, to make sure you get some keepers. First, the camera needs to be steady. It's too late to get hold of a special iPhone camera case with a tripod mount, but if you have one already, like the Gorilla Pod, you're in business. No tripod? You're not out of luck. Steady the iPhone on your lap, on a chair back, or on the roof of a car. If you have to hold it, it's a good idea to take a deep breath and hold it in while you are shooting the fireworks. No, not for a long time!

Your camera will have a tendency to follow the moving fireworks. Resist the temptation, and hold the camera steady when you take your picture. You don't want streaks and blurs caused by movement. If you have the latest iPhone 4 with HDR, turn it off. Fireworks happen quickly, you don't want multiple exposures slowing things down. And please, turn off the flash. Your little puny LED flash isn't going to illuminate the scene.

Before everything starts, decide if you are going to shoot landscape mode or portrait. If you are trying to capture the foreground crowd, landscape is fine. Most fireworks are set off vertically, so if you are shooting well above the horizon, portrait mode is best.

Digital zoom is a no no. It makes the picture larger, but increases the noise and decreases the quality. Stay at full wide with no digital zoom. The iPhone should auto-focus with no problem. If it doesn't tap the screen where the fireworks are, then hold steady and take your image.

Don't forget, the iPhone is also an excellent video camera. Many of the same rules apply. Try to hold the camera steady... and let the motion come from the fireworks, not from your camera. If you get some great pictures, leave us some links in Flickr, Picasa web albums or your MobileMe galleries. We'd like to highlight the best of them.

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