How to nail great welding shots
How to nail great welding shots
There's nothing like a dramatic shower of sparks to grab attention. So, how exactly do you go about photographing great welding and laser cutter shots? I love this kind of challenge and it also comes charged with high ampage electricity.
The intensity of light emitted from a welding torch or laser cutter at work is quite literally blinding. So, you'll need to use appropriately dark protective eye ware. You'll also need to cover up so that your hair and clothing aren't vulnerable to any errant sparks and fragments of very hot material. Use a long focal length lens with a range of 50mm to 100mm minimum, for example.
DO NOT attempt to get really close with a wide angle lens. If you do, you risk damage to you and your equipment. You can always crop into the shot later if you feel the need.
The light that these manual and automated processes generate is enough on its own to make stunning photographs. Therefore, you don't need to fuss with additional lighting or fill flash unless your brief demands it. In any case, you won't be thanked for putting up any other obstacles in this kind of working environment.
To obtain the best results, you'll need a camera with settings you can adjust manually. Smart phones won't give you the control you need. Sorry about that. So, naturally this means using a mid range or ideally, a professional camera.
Obviously, you'll need access to the subject matter. Typically, this means venturing into a manufacturing or factory environment with Health and Safety Regulations to consider. For this piece, I've also included examples of laser cutting, as the approach is much the same. First, take a few test shots to gauge the shutter speed and aperture that'll give you the results you're looking for. Remember to do this from a distance, not close up. I'd suggest using aperture f8 or f11 to begin with, until you refine your technique.
Begin with shutter speeds of around 1/125 sec and slow them down gradually to see the difference that makes. You may also need to experiment with the ISO settings. The longer the exposures, the longer and more dramatic the light trails. At 1/10 sec to 1/4 sec the effect is stunning. However, at these shutter speeds you run a high risk of motion blur even if you're using a tripod. The mechanical laser cutter head or the human welder will move, so your timing is also critical. A human being will cooperate more readily than a machine in this instance...if asked nicely!
To also help with this, set your camera to motor drive mode, or high speed multiple shutter actuation. Use a cable release so that you don't move the camera. You won't have all day to bag your shot, so timing is of the essence.
You're in a hazardous environment, so pay attention to the Health and Safety drill and keep your wits about you. There'll be plenty going on behind you and all around while your focus is on nailing the shot. Above all keep alert.
Exposure Photography works for commercial and industrial clients throughout the south of England.
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