Your fireworks photos suck. And mine do too... - Focalcraft Photography

Your fireworks photos suck. And mine do too...

Septptember 22, 2016

  Yes, your fireworks photos likely suck. I say that not because I myself am such a fantastic photographer, indeed mine definitely suck too. If you'll allow me to opine for a moment I assure you we'll end up somewhere that we can have some level of understanding, if not even agreement. *gasp!  It is my purpose to learn and improve all aspects of my photography constantly and without relenting as it should be for us all. In order to do so we must recognize our faults and short comings with emotional detachment and a resolute spirit. We must accept and recognize our suckage in every instance that we encounter it. That said...

  Why I chose fireworks as the subject for the first blog entry on Focalcraft is easy, I've done a pretty fair amount of it and I see a ton of terrible work that people ooh and ahhh over... and it's mostly garbage. I've even seen others teaching less experienced poo artists how to make their own brand of feces. In fact, most of the photography people are paying for now days is garbage but that's a post for another day. As a photographer you may fit into any number of categories or a hybrid there of: beginning amateur, hobbyist, serious amateur or perhaps even seasoned professional(who're probably not even reading this), no matter, you've probably tried to make fabulous fireworks photos and had mixed results, probably making a whole bunch of crap you think is good, or thought was good which might even be why you're here. These next three images illustrate just what I mean...

 Making photos of pyrotechnics displays is a pretty simple task using any of many long exposure technique variants. You can find mine here on our YouTube channel. But this isn't about how to set up your camera, it's typically not the exposure technique that's the reason for all the sub-par work we people keep cranking out. The biggest problem 90% of these photos suffer from is lack of context! Never mind the bad framing, poor color, and inappropriate focal lengths that are just a few of the hallmarks of this excrement but  that lack of context and any reason to keep your eyes looking around the frame is what ultimately just makes for very BORING photos. And let's be honest folks, if it's boring it's not worth looking at, and that means it's not worth keeping. Plain and simple. The images above are a pretty good example of photos that never draw you in. The first and third photos never give you anything beyond the explosion of color with the third being so busy it looks like a mess. The middle one started to give some of the environment to the viewer but the horrid framing, lack of detail, color and light destroyed any chance it had at capturing any of your attention.

Ok, so context, color, detail....

    

Getting better but still...nope.

  At least here we recognize that interesting photos need context, it's what tells us the story as we look around the frame and gives us a reason to want more. What made these non-starters was the utter lack of planning that went into making these photos. Great long exposure photos aren't happy accidents, they take effort and preparation. Scouting ahead, learning as much as you can about the environment and area you want to shoot from, where the display will be going off and getting there early with the proper equipment will pay huge dividends. You see in the left two photos there are HUGE power lines and trees in the way! What the heck?! Had I scouted the area I might have known that! The Disney photos have heads in the way and the framing isn't great since I was trying to exclude as many heads as I could. I shot from the middle of the street on a tripod that wasn't tall enough to miss the heads. Had I done my research or payed attention to the other photographers I might have known that the way I was equipped I needed to be farther away and elevate or get closer and go wider, either way you see the results, the bunch of them are crap. But at least we're learning something. These next three images show what just a little bit of planning and forethought can do to improve our results. 

Starting to get somewhere...

  Now those are a far cry from where we started for sure. We have context, color, detail and light in all of these. While these aren't knock your socks off, they are beginning to show an understanding of what makes a great photo and we're making obvious strides in that direction. What we've learned by now is that by knowing where the display is going to be and having familiarity with the venue or environment, we can come prepared. We can know how to set up and have a much better idea of the results we're going to get. Bad photos aren't the result of inferior equipment. They're the product of a crappy photographer. Don't think that new lens, camera body or whatchamadoozit is going to make your bad photos good. In fact, the 3rd photo above was even made with a point & shoot camera not some huge "professional" DSLR.  

Not too shabby now...  

  By now you get the picture (pun absolutely intended). I spent days scouting and researching where the best spot was going to be to give me the best chance of making the image I wanted to. I called the venue to determine exactly where they were being launched, I Google-Earthed the view I wanted, I took preparing seriously. That said, in the end, the same things that apply to other great photography apply to making stunning photos of fireworks. Our framing and composition should give us the foundation of context, the color, detail and light should all come together to flesh out our image and give it further substance and captivate the viewer. Just because we've figured out how to capture a photo of an exploding mortar in the sky without the typical blurry, grainy, noisy results everyone else ends up with, don't think you're suddenly amazing. That crap quickly bores your viewers while your friends and family blow smoke up your rectum telling you how fabulous you are and what a great investment that big DSLR hunk of plastic (or magnesium for you pros) was. I am not a great photographer. I don't know that I ever will be, but I will keep learning and I'll keep demanding better of myself, and I won't pretend that just because I'm better than some, that I don't know I'm not as good as most, or even half as good as the quarter of good ones, that are nowhere near as good at the eighth of the great ones that don't even come close to the legends in our field and I hope this finds you doing the same.

  If nothing else, this blog is for learning, don't be so audacious as to think it's for me to whip on you, it's for my own self-whipping. Have your own opinions about what I've shared, feel I'm way off base or have missed something? Contribute to the conversation in the comments below!

--Cody


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