Whether you are a wedding photographer looking to expand your skillset or just a mother with a digital point-and-shoot camera taking pictures of her children in the backyard on the 4th of July, knowing how to take good quality pictures of sparklers can make for great memories. Sparklers are one of those things that can either turn out really cool in your pictures or else seem blurry and indistinguishable, and knowing the right settings for your camera can make all the difference in the world. It is important to note that every camera is different and some cameras are less configurable than others, but these tips should help point you in the right direction so you can get some excellent photos.
The first step of taking a good picture of sparklers in action is to choose the type of shot you want to get. Depending on the type of event at which you are using your sparklers, there are several great options available. For the sake of demonstration, I will assume you are a wedding photographer looking to get some memorable shots for a couple. There are to main types of shots that make up the foundation of all photos of sparklers, and they are stationary shots and mobile shots.
Stationary shots are photos where people are standing still while their sparklers are burning. At a wedding, this a very common shot to capture while a couple is doing their “grand exit” with their guests lined up on both sides of the exit aisle or during the “first kiss” photo with all of the guests surrounding the newlywed couple with their lit sparklers. Capturing this type of photo is actually pretty easy since the quality of digital cameras on the market today can easily keep up with the flickering of the burning sparklers.
However, there is a more notorious and sought-after shot that many couples are hoping their wedding photographer can capture that involves the sparklers actually being in motion. Essentially, a group of people will “write” a phrase or shape in the air and the photo should look like a giant sparkler burning that was bent into that shape in advance. This type of picture can be a bit trickier to capture in a good quality picture, but here are some basic things to keep in mind when you start experimenting.
- Setup your camera by putting it on a sturdy tripod. This will keep the camera absolutely still during the shots and will increase your success rate.
- You’ll need to setup your camera an extra-long exposure time so you can capture the full range of motion of the lit sparklers. Setting an aperture of around f/8 and an exposure time of 30 seconds should be long enough, but it will vary depending on the specific stats of your digital camera.
- Get everyone in position and have them do a trial run before they light their sparklers. Each person will literally be “writing” their assigned letter or shape in the air, so practicing without a lit sparkler should be fairly easy.
- You’ll need the digital camera to focus on the person or group of people that will be doing the writing, but this can be difficult since you want it really dark for this type of picture. You can use a lighter to give your camera something to focus on to improve your chances of getting a clear shot on the first run.
- Light the sparklers and have everyone begin “writing” in the air in a smooth and steady pattern. Once they are going, click your shutter button to snap the photo.
- Utilize the view screen on your digital camera to gauge the quality of the photo. Don’t be afraid to take more than one photo in each attempt because the sparklers will usually burn long enough for you to get a handful of pictures.
The best thing you can do is get some sparklers and start practicing in advance of your actual photo shoot. Each digital camera will react differently when taking pictures of sparklers and the specific settings will vary based on a number of factors including the size of your lens and the overall quality of the camera brand. Trial and error is the best way to get the perfect settings for your specific camera dialed in correctly, so putting in the time and effort to learn these details can really go a long way.