- 2022 Processing High Dynamic Range Photos in PhotoLab 5 - Part One, Fireworks

It’s going to be 2022 very, very soon, and I thought I would start this off as a new thread, with the previous high dynamic range thread being so long it would take days on end to read all of it.

Specifically, tomorrow night, I plan to set up my D750 on a tripod on my balcony, with 200mm lens, and try to capture photographs of the fireworks display that goes on a few times a year in front of the Miami skyline.

Since I know I will be processing the images in PL5, I’m wondering if I should use some of the sunset tricks @Joanna taught me to capture images of both the colorful fireworks, and the city scene in the background, or just expose for the “colors”. It’s all too easy to burn out the fireworks, so it’s just “white”, no color, no nothing.

In previous years, I tended to do the least exposure I could, so most of the image was dark, but I (hopefully) had all the beautiful colors showing up. Unfortunately, there never seemed to be one setting that worked for everything - some fireworks were just too bright.

The D750 can make double-exposures (not sure about more than two), so maybe I can capture several fireworks and combine them into one exposure with more “action”.

Other problems in the past included the tripod - that’s solved, as my new tripod is very rigid. I thought about leaving my camera on ‘BULB’ and using a piece of black cardboard to cover and uncover the lens, but I never got around to actually testing this.

Any and all advice is welcome, especially ways to make use of the PL5 toolset to get even better images.

Maybe several of you can capture your own images too?

I got some ok shots last summer with my camera sitting on a table. The attached image is a composite of three photos, combined in Affinity Photo.


Photographing fireworks requires the a small aperture combined with a long(ish) exposure.

For me that means 100 ISO, f/22 and somewhere between 4 and 10 seconds of exposure, depending on what other light sources are visible in the frame. If you are looking at the city skyline, I am guessing there could be all sorts of lights and illuminated signs - in which case, I would err on the side of 4-5 seconds.

Something that is very important is to ensure that your auto-focus is turned off and that you have set the focus manually, otherwise, the focusing can hunt between shots. If you are using a zoom tele which has VR, turn that off as well.

Here is a shot (SOOC) which was taken just after sunset, so there was still some light in the sky. Since we don’t have massive city lights here (or even massive cities), I thought having a slightly illuminated sky would show something similar to what you will have.

And here it is after processing to improve the visibility of the port…

Of course, this is just a single shot. Your D750 will take and automatically blend up to 3 shots if it is set right. You need to make sure you understand the options.

Look at the manual p217 (in the pdf) and you will see the menu items.

I have found it best, for fireworks, to set the ON to series, which will then keep on grouping every three shots into one without you having to turn multiple exposure back on after every three shot sequence.

There is an indicator on the LCD panel on the top of the camera that shows you when you are in mid-sequence but, apart from counting, I found it best to keep an eye on the little light on the back of the camera that indicates when the file is being written to the card - this only lights up at the end of a sequence.

You want to choose the maximum number of shots, which is 3 and the auto gain should be ON. This will effectively divide the exposure for each shot by 3, so the overall exposure time will remain at 4-5 seconds.

Don’t forget to reset the multiple exposure setting to OFF when you are done for the night :sunglasses:

Here is a multiple exposure of 5 shots…

When to fire the shutter? Well, if you can hear the “plouff!” of the firework being set off, that is the time to open the shutter to get the longest trajectory as well as the explosion. Even with the delay of distance, you might still hear this in time. If not, I suggest you try to “get into the rhythm” of the display and simply start shooting on what you think is the first firing of a sequence. But it’s always very much hit and miss affair. Don’t wait the for sound of the explosion in the air, the speed of sound will meant you will be too late. And don’t forget to wait for one exposure of a sequence to finish before firing the next - if possible, listen for the shutter closing.

If you lose track, just keep firing and hope :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Finally, white balance. This is not relevant for RAW files and I suggest you leave it on 5600°K and correct afterwards in PL to what you feel is right.

Here is the above shot at 5600…

Then zoom in to one of the bursts and use the WB pipette to set the white level to what you can assume to be a pure white explosion. Either that or choose something that you know to be either pure white or black. I have actually used the sky, which is virtually black without much light pollution here but that might not work where you are. It is all very much subjective and experimental but, whatever you do, don’t use auto-WB - it will tend to try to make the brightest colour white and you will be no better off.



Don’t forget to frame to allow for possible highest explosions and also think whether you want to include reflections in the water. If anything, be prepared to crop rather than lose part of an explosion. Helen reckons you might need to use a wider angle lens that you anticipate and leave the top ¾ of the image height for possible explosions. Do a quick Google search for “Miami fireworks” to get some ideas of framing.


Is there a way to do this in PhotoLab? This way I can select several of my best images to combine. I assume the answer is “no”.

Low ISO I always started with in the past. Manual focus I always forgot, until the camera tried focusing on its own, at which time I remembered. I made a check-list last time, and the time before, which I naturally misplaced since the last time I tried this.

This is very different from what I thought I remembered, but much better. I will use those settings as you describe.

In the past, I always started by zooming in too much, and as the event went on, I started zooming out to include the higher fireworks. I forgot about this, but tonight will set up the camera ahead of time with this in mind.

My plan, for many reasons, is to use my 80-200 Nikon zoom. I need to include enough “Miami” so it’s obvious where the photos were taken, but since I’m so far away, I think 80mm is wider than I would ever want. Helen is spot on - in the past, the higher explosions were invariably cut off. Better to plan for this ahead of time, and crop later.

Gee, I really wish I could combine my “best” images in PL5 the way Affinity Photo apparently does it, but my goal right now is just to capture the best “individual” images, which will be merged with three images in the camera. Doing it the other way, I can select my best images, and use only those for merging. I do have Affinity Photo installed, so that’s an other option which I can think about later…


A bit like writing up a groceries list and forgetting to take it with you :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

In that case, take a quick look at one of your well framed images before tonight and use that focal length and framing before you start.

If you really want to do that, you could be best to take single shots but you would also have to try and avoid too many with the explosions in conflicting areas. Stick to the multi-shot this time and perfect that. Practice stacking in Affinity Photo later to see what you need to take in order to get it right next time. Essentially, in PL, you adjust all the images to exactly the same settings (Smart Lighting, Tone Curve, Fine contrast, etc) then export them all to TIFF and bring them into Affinity for merging. Nowhere near as easy as multi-shot in camera.

One thing at a time - and tonight it will be multi-shot. It is set now for 3 shots
I followed your mini-guide on Multiple Exposure Mode up above.
I’m guessing exposure will be set between 4 and 5 seconds as you suggested.
For aperture, I’ll start at f/2.8 but I’m pretty sure I will need to stop down quite a bit.
ISO is 100.

I also followed your advice about “auto-gain” to essentially divide the exposure by 3, for each of the 3 images. I’m not so sure about that - unless the fireworks overlap, won’t they all be more “dull” than expected? I need to start somewhere, so I’ll follow your suggestions.

I’m too far away to hear it, but I ca usually see that something has been fired, so I can start then.

Thanks - will try this. Should be fun.

When the show is over, only then, can I enjoy my New Year’s “beverage” whatever it might happen to be. :woozy_face:

Don’t bother with wider apertures, the light of fireworks is already as bright as the sun and will be swamped by the light from the city.

Nope. The exposures will be fine because you only need ⅓ of the total 15 seconds for a good exposure.

My D810 can do a 10 shot multiple exposure of 4 seconds and the results are fine…

Trust me on this. I’ve done this every year for 3 years and never had a failure, apart from the year when we had a combination of a temperature inversion and no wind over the launch site and all the smoke refused to clear.

Ha i stood in the garden and bursted my sd full.
about 900 images. (f2.8 manaul shutterspeed 3200 iso.)
not very nice view angle or free air (fence in the way)
and probably a lot not sharp due focus or shutterspeed issues.
don’t care i just liked to see if the lens was holding up.
(other lens would be f1.7 15mm which i tried last year:

i can’t wait to use one of these setting to try :slight_smile:
edit in dxo to 16bit tiff and then stacking in SP.

be back with those :slight_smile:

When I look at your image, I think I would make it much, much darker, with more contrast, making the “fence” into a frame, with a dark sky and bright fireworks in front. It’s so bright that if there were colors, maybe they were lost, in which case you could change it to a b&W image.

I made too many mistakes, adjusting as I went along until I thought I found a good exposure. No @Joanna, I lost track of which group of three images were combined, so I ignored it, and kept shooting, hoping for three good, colorful explosions on one frame. Initially the fireworks were being launched from several locations, but after a while, all the bursts seemed to come from one spot. I kept re-aiming the camera to try to keep the bursts centered, figuring I would edit later. After 50 3-image sets, the show came to an end. By then I was way too tired - I looked through them rapidly on my camera, but was too sleepy to transfer them to the computer.

It all “felt” very frustrating. I was wondering if I was just wasting my time. I didn’t have any time to dwell on that though, I keep hoping to press the shutter release at the right time.

@Wolfgang will shoot me when he sees the original images, as the tripod shifted at some time during the display, and a lot of the shots need to be straightened. Exposure was set to maintain the color - overexposure made all the fireworks white, underexposure made them dim. I think I found a good compromise.

Fireworks displays usually end with a huge burst of simultaneous fireworks, all overlapping each other - for whatever reason, that never happened. The fireworks display just stopped without any special finale. Or, maybe all was like usual, and I was just too tired to realize it.

The trick of 3-shot exposures worked brilliantly - thank you!!! And yes, I need to remember to set the camera back to “normal”.

I was using my second D750, the one that had a transplant for the front of the camera. I spent an hour or so making sure both cameras were set exactly the same, but with something in the EXIF data to tell me which was which later on, when I review my images in the future. My first priority for today is breakfast. …funny, I don’t have any “emotion” that this is the start of a new year. Maybe that will come later.

Not sure if I should now be happy or frustrated - maybe I got lucky, so I’ll go with “happy”.

Good - after practice shots, I had most of this set up ahead of time, but I didn’t know exactly where the fireworks would launch from. I got good enough I guess, for a start.

Bad - I never thought to use my remote, so photos were taken manually. With the 200mm lens, I suspect the camera might have moved during the shot, but some of the streaks from the fireworks are reasonably “straight”; maybe the perceived movement as captured as wiggles in the lines, was real and accurate?

Mostly Good - I captured 50 3-exposure images, losing track of what image was being taken, and what “set” it was going into. I concentrated at firing the shutter when each burst was just going off, but there were many random captures. After reviewing all this in PhotoMechanic, I narrowed it down to three images, one of which I was happy with.

Good - I edited this image to look best, then “finished”.
As a test, I then made a virtual copy, and used Smart Lighting to bring out the city buildings a little more. I like this lighter view more.

In retrospect, gosh, had I not posted this thread, and had I taken image the “old” way, no multi-exposure sets, I never would have gotten something I like as much as the image below. Next time, (July 4th, Independence Day) I will remember to use the remote. @Joanna, your suggestion about this made a HUGE difference!!! Thank you again!!

(The white circular thing at the bottom right is a Ferris wheel, which I left in the photo to identify the image as coming from Miami, Florida.)

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@Joanna - what you showed me how to do is better than what “the professionals” did:
Miami New Years Fireworks, 2021-2022

first culling revealed:
f2.8 on m43 3200 iso and 1/200ste means too much underexposed to reveal the colors. only high heated parts are shown.

f2.8 1/40ste (too slow) motion problem and 1/25ste what was the camera thinking? :thinking:
f2.8 1/100ste nice motion freeze sharp and flowing.(blur)
f2.8 1/125ste nice colors and stil dark, good freeze motion, (so sweetspot is 1/125-1/160-1/200ste)
most of those bursts are all sharp enough.

i think i try to see if i can transfer the bursts in a stopmotion movie. (like a slow motion explosion)
i have to find a app which does that which i already have installed.
Davinci resolve, or something,
this is gona take a wile :sweat_smile:

Naughty, naughty :roll_eyes: :crazy_face:

Maybe one of the triplet didn’t suffer too much movement but the “wiggles”, not just on the fireworks, but also on the building lights give the game away.

The trails from the explosions could have been longer and a tad brighter, which is why I suggested 4 seconds at f/22 rather than the 2 seconds you chose.

By the way, your D750 has a virtual horizon to ensure it is level - who forgot to use it? :wink:

I have had a go at your image, making the buildings a little more obvious as I felt their lights added to the overall look. I’ve also reframed it to include some of the reflections on the water.

If your ageing memory is anything as good as mine, I suggest you put the reminder I have sent you by email in your calendar :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I take it you were hand-holding?

Unfortunately, unless the results you have are what you wanted, you really needed to reduce both the ISO and the aperture as much as possible and lengthen the exposure to get the coloured trails. It might seem logical to boost the ISO and open the aperture, because you are standing in the dark, but that is exactly what what you shouldn’t do as it burns out the colours and gives you such a low contrast between the explosions and the sky. And you must use a tripod and remote (as Mike discovered) :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

i just decided on the spot to get my 35-100mm f2.8 out.
Hand held walking in the garden to try to get as less “fence” as possible in the frame.

Point is if the flares are around 100-200meters away next street neighbour’s so to speak i need a certain shutter speed to freeze the motion of the explosion.
Yes we warn’t allowed by goverment to fire fireworks but, well Belgium, Polen is close by so…
Nederland trekt zich weinig aan van vuurwerkverbod en knalt erop los | NU - Het laatste nieuws het eerst op NU.nl (deepl)

I think tripod and 800 iso and f4 (m43 sweetspot) does take 1/2sec or longer? then you need a few km to get the freeze of the fireworks.

i did go in f2.8 and shutter piority and auto iso max 3200 and it did underexpose -3ev on 1/125sec. (logic because it meaters black sky wit hbright dots.
used backbutton ea/af lock to keep same exposure in bursting.

What do you think of which m43 settings would be ideal?

With fireworks, the aim is not to freeze the fireworks but to allow enough exposure for the trails to develop and not just the moment of explosion, because the trails are where the colour appears, in contrast to the explosion, which is usually too bright and just white.

You can’t rely on metering or anything automatic. It all has to be manual: ISO, shutter speed, aperture and focus.

It really doesn’t matter which camera, ISO 100, 4 seconds @ f/22, on a tripod, with a remote, is pretty much standard.

The biggest problem with your “neighbourhood” fireworks is that they don’t last very long in the sky, so maybe 2 seconds @ f/16 might work in that situation.

Just to demonstrate why you need such a low ISO and small aperture, here is an export of @mikemyers image with nothing done apart from raising the exposure by 4 stops (the equivalent of either: using ISO 1600, or opening the aperture to f/5.6…

I can use the tone curve to attempt to correct it…

But compare the “red” trails, even after the tone curve correction, with the correctly exposed version.

Over-exposed and corrected…

Correctly exposed…

i have to equivilancebalance this from FF. m43 is crop2/ factor 2.
F16 crop 2: f8
four times less surface so at least 2 time more exposure. 2 sec means 800 iso to compensate.

I thought that I had thought everything out, setting up my camera hours ahead of time, getting the triple-exposure working, getting every setting on the camera “correct”. Camera was level, framed correctly. I left it, and went back to other things until a few minutes before midnight.

I loosened the knobs to re-aim my camera once I knew where to center it. In the future I will snug down all the knobs even tighter, so the camera won’t move unexpectedly. I’m disappointed now that I never realized the camera lost its “level”, and yes, since I could barely see, the D750’s built in level would have been appropriate, far better than my “guesstimating”.

I will make up a “check list” for next time. I just never even thought about the remote. My brain gets filled up with “what is happening”, and I don’t get to slow down, stand back, and think what I might be doing wrong, and how to correct things. I suspect my brain was too filled up with triple-exposing, and trying to know which shot in a series I was capturing (a lost cause, I lost track, and the camera didn’t seem to tell me during image review - if the camera were smarter, it would only show me “image review” after the final shot in the sequence. Better put, I got lost in what I thought I was doing, and didn’t “step back” to analyze things and correct mistakes. After this, I will never forget the remote again for fireworks photos, and the camera will be locked down solid.

I did try varying the aperture, and the choices were way too dark, good color in “trails”, and “burnt-out with less or no color in trails”. Before I do this again, the camera will be set to 4 seconds. As I started to shoot, I did try different shutter speeds - in retrospect, I should have set the camera to 4 seconds before the fireworks even started, and left it at your settings unless something was obviously wrong.

PL5 should have shown two images, my original image when I first thought it was done, and a VC when I decided I should bring out the buildings. You’ve brought out the buildings even more, which is important, and a very nice improvement, to show the city so much better. I’m shocked and disappointed that I never even realized I had captured reflections in the water - I like what you did, but I’m wondering now if I can bring them out even more?

Looking at your finished image, and then going back to mine, the addition of reflections in the water is a HUGE improvement. I look at what I did, and it’s like I cropped out a very important part of the photo. No excuse. I had all the time in the world, but I guess I had a one track mind of “bringing out the buildings” even more. I’m disappointed in myself that I never even notice the reflections - but they might not have been there to even notice in my original image before I tried to bring out the city buildings.

To put everything in perspective, using your suggestions, I got the best fireworks photo that I have ever taken. Nobody I have showed it to would give a second thought to the mistakes that I now know I made. On the other hand, I learn very well from mistakes, and especially you, @Wolfgang and @platypus, and often @OXiDant make certain that I understand I did make mistakes, and suggestions on how to correct them - in this time, for the future. I can’t repair a wobbly image.

Making a check-list for next time is a good first step.
Finding a way to attach my ML-L3 remote to my tripod is another.
If I am using the tripod, there is a good chance I should be using the remote.

My memory was never all that good, and now it’s even less so. Thanks - I added your iCal notice (thank you!!!) with notes:
Screen Shot 2022-01-02 at 08.47.58

Right now, I’m very pleased. After so many years, the advice here has once again resulted in a huge increase in performance. Thank you all!!!

Added later, using your suggestion on reflections on water - using an inverted graduated filter…

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I’m sorry but this is just plain wrong. Exposure doesn’t depend on surface area - you’re thinking of depth of field and diffraction.