I got some decent fireworks pictures from this year's Fourth of July show. I was bragging about my "real" camera's ability to take shots like that compared to an iPhone. Some people objected to my teasing and think an iPhone could achieve similar results.

I'd like to edit an image such as this and alter it to mimic an iPhone shooting in the same conditions: in the dark from 1.3 miles away! I'm thinking I can shrink the image, then resize it to lower the effective resolution. I'd also tinker with lowering the saturation on the colors or tweak the white balance to reduce the color accuracy.

How would I mimic a different focal length? This was shot at 130mm (210mm equivalent), how can I shrink the image to show the relative size of the firework burst the iPhone's ~30mm equivalent angle would have captured?

Is there a filter or technique for introducing ISO shot noise into an image?

Sample picture from this year's shoot

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you really think "Look! I made this picture look worse. Trust me, that's what it would look like from an iPhone!" will really convince your friends? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 4:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see people wanting to improve their photographs, you are the first in the opposite side. JK. \$\endgroup\$
    – samjay
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 5:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't a much simpler solution just be to find someone who did shoot the fireworks with an iPhone and ask to borrow their photo? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 7:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ The worst part is that you really can't simulate the effect of the iphone's uncontrolable shutter speed. \$\endgroup\$
    – ths
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 9:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ths For [pick_a_number]$$ I sure can :-) . It's not all that difficult to add motion blur in post-processing, e.g. That and a little hacking of the response Z-curve will take care of it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 11:57

3 Answers 3


To the casual photographer / observer I doubt you can do much better than the physical limitations of the lens.

A few searches and some really rough math, the iPhone has about the 35mm equivalent of ~30mm vs 200mm, which would be a much wider FOV. I attempted to mimic the FOV and fill in the space with black and cloning the cityscape a bit and then down sampled the image from the (I believe it came out about 100mp) to the iphone's approximate 12mp. enter image description here

You could then crop the result image to the original and see a decent loss of detail.

A few notes:

  • Not very scientific
  • Pretty rough calculations
  • This sort of shot is really worst case scenario for a phone or point and shoot with a wider lens

I think a more fair test to judge the sensor (and not lens, manual controls, ease of use etc.) would be a decent lens at about 30mm in low light, and using the camera's JPEG modes to get about 12mp. But there IMO is no fair way to add noise and call it fair. I could shoot at some insane ISO on a DSLR like the 5DSR to get dark action shots, but the result image does very little to show the strengths of the DSLR.


I got some decent fireworks pictures from this year's Fourth of July show.

At this point I'd expect you to stop as you don;t actually have a photographic problem.

I was bragging about my "real" camera's ability to take shots like that compared to an iPhone.

I'd regard that as the real problem here.

If your photo is genuinely better than your friend's iPhone shots then surely it's something you don't need to ram down their throats.

Some people objected to my teasing

And I can see why.

"Teasing" is a conjugating verb. "I tease", "he mocks", "they are irritating twits" - maybe look at it like that.

and think an iPhone could achieve similar results.

The issue here is that, in all probability, your friends are quite happy with their own photos and don't feel any need to be told how lousy they are.

Of the many things a DSLR can do differently from a Phone camera, I see no reason to annoy your friends with something like this.

If it's not obvious to your friends that your photos are better than theirs, then maybe, by the criteria they use to judge "better" there simply is no difference.

Advice : Let. It. Go.

The first time I turned up at one of my extended family's gatherings armed to the teeth with my DSLR and 50mm f1.4 I got some pretty fair and good natured ribbing. I also got the only set of decent low light shots for the night as judged by other people, not me.

I explain to people why I get shots they can't make when they ask to have it explained, not when I feel like bragging.

And people regularly (and quite correctly) tell me I'm a twit to carry around a huge DSLR and lens when about 90% of the time their camera phone will indeed do just as good a job for their needs (and mine, if truth be told).

  • \$\begingroup\$ 99% of the reason to own a DSLR is for 1% of situations! #agreement! But also personal enjoyment. \$\endgroup\$
    – AthomSfere
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 11:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is kind of a heater asnwer. The person asking has his own reason. What's the point in critizing his ideas instead of providing technical answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – Paolo
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 11:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Paolo because it's far better to solve the problem , not the symptom \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 11:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Eh? It's okay, Stephen! They are under the impression that I'm crazy for owning a DSLR + tripod + cable release because phones take great pictures all the time now. This is a situation where I know a handheld iPhone shot won't work and I'd like to tinker with my shot to roughly demonstrate what it would have looked like, instead. No one else was taking pictures of this particular show, so I'm not putting them down--I literally don't have a comparison to offer interested parties. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eric L.
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ >"At this point I'd expect you to stop as you don;t actually have a photographic problem." I don't know much about post-processing and this seemed like an interesting challenge. Sometimes you learn how things work by taking them apart, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Eric L.
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 17:37

you could take a picture OF YOUR PICTURE with an I-Phone. it would be subject to all of the noise/ratio/color/resolution restrictions of the I-Phone image, but otherwise be identical to your version.

of course, this requires owning an I-phone.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is incorrect as the image isn't moving and isn't lit the same. It would look nothing like what an iPhone would have captured if it had been used for the original picture. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 4:02

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