This page is an entry in the Key.

photographing fireworks

Many of the most dramatic fireworks photographs you see are made with a single uninterrupted exposure and they are undoctored — and yet they do not qualify as TCQ.

Why not?

Because to meet Q4, a photograph must depict one specific arrangement that occurred during exposure

— and many fireworks photos are made by holding the shutter open long enough to capture multiple successive bursts of fireworks.

In other words, many fireworks photos depict a visual combination that no one at the scene would have seen.

As it says on the satode page linked above, “Every TCQ photo must depict an arrangement of elements that would be seen in a momentary ‘glimpse’ or ‘snapshot’ of the subject.”

The fireworks photographs that viewers like most tend to fail that test. Sometimes they fail it miserably.

So the photographer has two choices

1. Choose a shutter speed that is short enough (say, 1/8th or 1/15th of a second) to capture good fireworks-streaking while ensuring that the photo does not depict an arrangement that never occurred during the exposure(s).

For fireworks photos labeled “Guaranteed TCQ,” knowledge that a short exposure was used will be more persuasive to “viewers in the know” than will be a longer exposure.


2. Don’t worry about meeting the Trust Checklist and make the exposure as long as desired.

Seriously: fireworks photos that are not TCQ are not a big deal.

It is safe to say that most viewers probably are not looking for reportage-level “trustworthiness” in their fireworks photographs.

So even photographers who usually make TCQ photos need not lose any sleep when their fireworks photographs fail to qualify for the “Guaranteed TCQ” label.

What about when multiple bursts of fireworks appear simultaneously and a photo that looks like it is NOT qualified for TCQ actually IS qualified?