Kaboom! How to Take Awesome Fireworks Photos with Your iPhone

by | June 29, 2017

It’s the time of year when fireworks fill the sky above celebrations of all sorts. As the crowds ooh and aah at glittering chrysanthemum and willow effects, you may be wishing you could capture some of those moments with your iPhone. With these tips, you won’t need a fancy DSLR camera!

1: Pick a Good Location

Consider your position before it gets dark. If you’re too close, you might not be able to capture the full glory of a massive burst. Too far away, and the fireworks will be little spots of light. Make sure there aren’t any power lines or lamp posts between you and the fireworks. If there’s nearby water, you might be able to take some interesting reflection shots.

2: Turn Off the Flash

The iPhone’s flash works only at short distances, so turn it off to avoid annoying people around you. In the Camera app, tap the lightning bolt and then Off.

Fireworks-photos-flash

3: Disable HDR or Enable Keep Normal Photo

You probably want to disable HDR by tapping HDR on the Camera screen and then tapping Off. HDR, or High Dynamic Range, combines three exposures into one photo, which works well when some parts of a scene are dark and others are light.

Fireworks-photos-HDR

The problem with HDR is that fireworks will move slightly between the exposures, which may introduce blur. That could be an interesting effect in its own right, so if you want to try leaving HDR on, be sure to enable Keep Normal Photo in Settings > Photos & Camera. That way, you can see whether you prefer the normal image or the HDR version.

 

4: Hold Still or Use a Tripod or Monopod

To reduce the chance of your fireworks photos coming out blurry, keep the iPhone as still as possible—try holding it with both hands and pressing your elbows into your sides.

Alternatively, use a tripod, although a monopod or selfie stick can offer stability while letting you more easily move the iPhone around to frame different portions of the sky.

5. Try the iPhone’s Special Modes

With fireworks, it’s nearly impossible to predict the exact moment when a blast of color will be at its most impressive. So don’t! Instead, use one of the iPhone’s special modes:

 

  • Burst Mode: Press and hold the shutter button or one of the volume buttons to take ten shots per second. You’ll have to sort through the burst afterward to find the best pictures, but you’re almost certain to get good ones.
  • Live Photos: Fireworks are all about motion: the slow climb, the pregnant pause, and then the explosion of light and sound. If you enable Live Photos by tapping its bullseye icon in the Camera app (it turns yellow), tapping the shutter button will take a mini-movie of the action.
    Fireworks-photos-Live-Photos

 

  • Slo-Mo Video: If you plan to share your photos on social media, why not share a video instead? A regular video works, but try Slo-Mo mode in the Camera app to slow down the frenetic pace of a grand finale. Hold still while recording!
  • Time-Lapse Video: Or, go in the other direction, and record the entire show as a time-lapse video, which compresses everything into a much shorter video. Just flip to Time-Lapse in the Camera app.

You need a tripod for a time-lapse video.
Fireworks-photos-videos

6: Use an App for Longer Exposures

Apple’s built-in Camera app doesn’t let you increase the length of exposures, which can provide striking light trails of fireworks. Lots of independent apps do offer that capability, including LongExpo (free), Shutter (free), Slow Shutter Cam ($0.99), and Manual ($5.49). Regardless of which you try, play with different exposure times to get the effect you want.

 One last thing. As much fun as it can be to photograph fireworks, don’t let the iPhone get in the way of enjoying the show with family and friends!

 

 

How to Unlock Your Mac with a Wave of Your Hand (well, Apple Watch)

by | June 12, 2017

It’s magic. You walk up to your Mac, touch a key to wake it up, and upon noticing that you’re wearing your Apple Watch, it unlocks without making you enter a password. Brilliant! For some of us, it’s almost a reason alone to get an Apple Watch.

Auto Unlock, as Apple calls this feature, lets you protect your Mac with a strong password—recommended for international spies and teenage girls alike—without forcing you to type your password repeatedly. (You will have to type it the first time after you turn on, restart, or log out of your Mac.)

To enable this protection and keep people out of your Mac when you’re away, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and select “Require password after sleep or screen saver begins.” Since your Apple Watch will be doing all the heavy lifting, feel free to set a short time span. Then select “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.” If the stars are smiling on you, that’s all you’ll need to do.

 

Auto-Unlock-Security-pref-pane

However, it’s likely that something won’t be quite right for Auto Unlock to function properly, since it has a bunch of requirements.

First, make sure your hardware is new enough and sufficiently up-to-date. Your Mac must be from mid-2013 or later, and it must be running macOS 10.12 Sierra or later. (If you aren’t sure about your Mac, see if that checkbox labeled “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac” is present. If not, your Mac is too old.) Any model of Apple Watch will work, but it needs to be using at least watchOS 3.

Next, you need to turn on two-factor authentication. If you were using Apple’s previous two-step verification, you must switch to two-factor authentication. It adds an extra layer of security to your Apple devices and accounts, including iCloud, and is well worth doing in this day and age of password thefts. Plus, it ensures you don’t have to remember those inscrutable security questions about your favorite elementary school teacher! The links earlier in this paragraph have more details, but you enable two-factor authentication in System Preferences > iCloud > Account Details > Security.

Now for the checklist. For Auto Unlock to work:

  • Your Mac must have Bluetooth turned on. Click the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar or look in System Preferences > Bluetooth.
  • Your Mac must have Wi-Fi turned on, even if you’re using Ethernet. Click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and choose Turn Wi-Fi On if necessary.

Auto-Unlock-Bluetooth+Wi-Fi

  • Your Mac and your Apple Watch must be signed in to iCloud using the same Apple ID. Verify that in System Preferences > iCloud on the Mac, and on your iPhone in the Apple Watch app, in General > Apple ID.
  • Your Apple Watch must have a passcode enabled. On your iPhone, in the Apple Watch app, tap Passcode and then Turn Passcode On. So you don’t have to enter your passcode, enable Unlock with iPhone.

Auto-Unlock-Passcode

  • Your Mac must not be using Internet Sharing. Verify that in System Preferences > Sharing.

Auto-Unlock-Internet-Sharing

It’s a lot to check, we know, but you only have to do it once. After that, go back to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and select “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.” It may prompt for your password, and Bob’s your uncle. (Unless he’s not. We’ve never understood that expression.)

After that, every time you wake your Mac or stop the screensaver, it will unlock automatically with your Apple Watch. If you’re not wearing the Apple Watch, or if your watch is locked (hence our recommendation of Unlock with iPhone), you can still type your password at the Mac’s login screen.

There is one small gotcha. Every time you install a macOS update, Apple disables that checkbox, presumably for some security reason. Just go back into the Security & Privacy preference pane and turn it back on. Happily, that’s nothing for the win of not having to unlock your Mac with your password multiple times per day.

 

Twitter: If you have an Apple Watch and a recent Mac, turn on Auto Unlock and (almost) never type your login password again!

Facebook: Let your Apple Watch unlock your Mac and you won’t have to type your password nearly as often

Eliminate Mac Desktop Clutter by Sorting

by | June 5, 2017

Is your Mac’s Desktop a cluttered mess? That’s not a criticism—it happens to all of us. A few files here, a folder or two there, and before long you can’t find anything amid all the icons. There’s a solution, of course, which is that the Finder lets you sort the icons on your Desktop just like any other folder. Click once on the Desktop, then choose View > Show View Options. In the window that appears, along with icon size and positioning, you can use the Sort By pop-up menu to choose how icons will sort on the Desktop. Date Modified is often the best, since that puts the most recently changed file or folder at the top right, or directly underneath any drive icons.

tip-arrange-Desktop