Throughout the world, one thing nearly all New Year’s celebrations have in common is an epic firework display. An incredible visual experience, it’s natural to want to pull out your phone and photograph the fireworks. Unfortunately, it’s common to look back on your fireworks photography and feel a little underwhelmed at the images.
In fact, the combination of distance and low-light can make mobile firework photography one of the most challenging enterprises for any photographer. With the incredible low-light capability of Xperia Z5 though, it becomes a lot easier. To help you prepare for New Year’s Eve, we caught up with Sony Mobile Engineer, Kensuke Mashita, to get his top tips and tricks on how to get great fireworks imagery.
One of the most important elements of getting good firework photography and really, any low-light photography is a steady hand. Xperia Z5 already has built-in stabilisation recognition technology, so to get the best shot try balancing your camera on a hard surface or even better use a tripod. Look for the little tripod logo to know if you’ve got the camera steady enough.
While it may be tempting to use the 23MP setting on Xperia Z5’s camera for capturing great fireworks photography, I’d recommend putting the phone in Manual mode and dropping the resolution down to 8MP. By doing this you can limit excess noise in your shot and really improve your image.
You may want to play around with the ISO setting, if you’ve got your phone on a tripod then you can really crank this up to the maximum 12,800 setting. If not, try working with around ISO 3,200 for clean, blurless imagery.
Also, whenever working with artificial lighting, remember you can control the exposure using the EV sliders and adjusting the white balance to get interesting and different colour effects.
Saying all that, if playing around with settings isn’t your thing, then you’ll probably find it easier just to use the ‘Fireworks’ mode in Scene selection. This optimises the settings to guarantee the best fireworks images. There’s also a ‘Night scene’ mode that you may find useful depending on the composition of your shot. This may be really useful if you’ve got an interesting backdrop to your fireworks.
Keep in mind that even with the right settings, you’ll still need to keep the camera steady!
At night, flash won’t really help you capture images that are any distance away. Also, if you’re hiding indoors from the cold and snapping the fireworks through a window, a flash will reflect and spoil the shot. If fireworks are the focus, then forget about the flash.
The only time it may be useful is if you’re taking a portrait or selfie with the fireworks in the background (using the main camera). Even so, by using the flash you can lose the vividness that makes a fireworks display so attractive.
Timing is one of the big challenges of firework photography. You don’t want to wait all evening to miss New Year because your camera took too long to react. Xperia Z5’s fast autofocus is really helpful with this, taking just 0.03 seconds to focus, so you can get the exact moment you’re aiming for.
One of the other features you may want to use is Timeshift Burst mode. To get that big full firework blossom shot, set the camera to Timeshift Burst mode. When you’ve lined up your shot press the camera key. Timeshift Burst mode takes up to 61 frames within 2 seconds, starting before you’ve even pressed the camera key. All the images will show up on your screen and you can swipe through to get your perfectly timed photo.
Hopefully, Kensuke’s tips will help you make the most of your New Year’s celebrations. We’d love to see your fireworks shots so share them with us on Twitter and they may even feature on the blog.