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Sparkler Fun – tips

Sparkler pictures are fun and magical. I mean who doesn’t love sparklers? They have become more and more popular at weddings as an “exit” where the bride and groom run through. Ive received a lot of emails and facebook messages asking if I would share how I took the sparkler pictures I have been posting so I thought I would share some tips and tricks.

Im sure there are many different ways you can do this, but this is what I have found works the best.

You will need at least 2 off camera flashes on stands, a tripod, camera, wireless remotes, sparklers and someone to take the picture (assistant, friend of couple).

I put my flashes on manual at 1/2 and point them directly at the couple. Since this is a long exposure picture you will need the off camera flash to basically “freeze” the couple and their movement. I like the bride to hold the sparkler and then I light another sparkler off of the brides already lite sparkler to write a word or make a shape. This makes it appear like the bride wrote the word, but in fact I am doing it. Since the bride is hold the sparkler and its rather close to her and this is a long exposure shot, you are getting a lot of light cast off of the sparkler on to the couple. The off camera flash and closed aperture will help with this. When I first tried this I did not take that into account and my flash strength was not high enough or close enough to the couple and my aperture was too wide. I got a lot of light and color cast off on to the couple and they were a little blurry. OK a lot blurry.

Next you will need to set your camera to manual so you can control both the aperture and shutter. I have found being around f/14 or f/16 works well. The higher your aperture the more your sparkler will be defined. If you are more wide open your sparkler will appear less defined and more like balls of light.

For the flash setting on the camera, you will want to set it to rear. If you leave it normal the flash will go off at the beginning of the exposure. We want the flash to instead fire at the end of the exposure, right before the shutter closes. So set this to “rear” This burst of light from the flash will help to freeze the couple and their movement. I usually have the couple look at each other, kiss or look at the camera. Whatever you are having them do it would be best if hey could hold as still as possible. The flash will help to stop their movement but it will not freeze them completely. So they still need to hold as still as possible.

Next you could do this two ways. You could set the camera on timer for the length of time you want your exposure. Since I don’t really know how much time I am going to need I have found setting the shutter to “bulb” works the best. You will need an assistant or someone to actually take the picture while you are doing the writing. What they will do is when you are ready they will depress the shutter button and hold it down to start the exposure. You will then write/paint with the light source (video light or sparkler) and once you are finished and have stepped out of the frame they release the shutter. The flashes will fire, the shutter will close ending the exposure and we will have our picture.

So now you are asking, where do we buy really cool sparklers? The sparklers used for the below pictures came from Some were the 20 inch and some were the 36 inch. The 36 inch burn for almost four minutes and give you plenty of time to get more then one picture. If your client wants a sparkler picture I would recommend they at least buy the 20 inch sparklers. Anything smaller is well, too small.

So to recap…

– off camera flashes on a higher manual setting, 1/4 or 1/2. I used 1/2
– use a high aperture, I like being around f/14 or f/16
– get flashes as close to subject as possible without being in frame
– tripod
– set camera flash setting to REAR
– use Bulb to control how long your exposure is

If you have any tips or tricks, please add them!
Meet the Merry’s!

This picture was taken at the Ritz Carlton on the outside deck on the 15th floor. We had a very tiny space to work with. The walkway was narrow. I moved Daniel and Kelly as far to the left of the frame as I could. I was using the 17-35mm and you can see that they are being distorted. I told Kelly about it and we were going to move and try again in a location that would give me more room to write but would not have any city skyline in the background. (it was a courtyard, there would be a wall for a background) but she said she liked it and preferred that over the courtyard wall.
Here I moved the couple since I did not need room to write a word but instead was just having fun with what remained of the sparkler.

This was just random fun while hanging out with some friends. This is “daving” NOT planking, giving a shout out to our poor crippled friend David. We love you.
My husband Beebe and friends Tim Sison and Tim Pham being super goofy. Chad has this on video… I can only imagine how it looks.

We ran out of sparklers, so we moved on to a flash light.

Video Light