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women spelling LOVE wth a sparkler

Tips & Tricks

Sparkler Photography 101

14th October 2020

Bursts of vibrant colours in the night sky, accompanied with a loud bang, fizz and a pop, followed by the ‘ooh’s’ and ‘ahh’s’ of the crowd below. It can only mean one thing – it’s Bonfire Night. Although this year, the 5th November may be a little different than usual. In order to enjoy the festivities, why not bring the awe and wonder of Bonfire Night into your own back garden? Wrap up warm in your favourite coat, hat, scarf and gloves for a night of endless fun with sparklers. We’ve put together our best sparkler photography tips and tricks for you to get creative with your shots and bring your sparkler photos to life.

What you’ll need:

  • Tripod (or a sturdy platform for your camera)
  • Camera or smartphone with long exposure settings
  • Sparklers (buy more than you think you’ll need!)
  • Lighter
  • Bucket with sand or water
Large square photo of sparkler firework close up

Dress for the occasion, with closed-toe shoes and gloves to protect yourself, as well as the usual cosy comforts needed when you’re out in the cold all night. Be careful when the sparklers are lit and avoid contact with the tip at all times (even after it has burned out!). We recommend having a bucket nearby with either sand or water in to collect all of the used sparklers.

As expected, sparkler photography works best in low light. However, it’s best to get started before the sun goes down so that you have plenty of time to practise your shots with your sparklers (and kids!) whilst it’s still light outside. This way, you’ll be able to see what camera settings work best too. If you’re using a DSLR camera, make use of manual focus so that the camera is all ready for your sparkler photoshoot in the dark.

Freeze the Moment with Still Sparkler Photography

Taking photos of sparklers is really simple with still photography. Best taken just before sundown, still sparkler photography is ideal for capturing your subject as well as the sparkler. Whether it’s a child, teen or adult, have your model hold their sparkler straight out in front of them and ask them to stay very still! We recommend using a tripod for this so that your camera is completely still too, as it captures the sparks shooting off in all directions. This is a great time to play around with your focus, switching between capturing the candid joy on your subjects face and on the sparkler itself.

Tip: Shoot your still sparkler photography with a shutter speed of 1-2 seconds and ISO 400. Adjust your aperture to how you wish, depending on whether you want the sparkler in focus or your subject. Without getting the sparkler too close to the face, try and capture the ambient glow from the sparkler lighting up their face for a really creative shot.

Children safely playing with sparklers printed as a large wall art

Get Creative with Movement

Let’s face it, this is what you came here for! Sparkler writing or light painting is a really impressive and fun photoshoot idea for this Bonfire Night. Using longer shutter speed times, you can get really creative and bring your photos to life with movement in your sparkler photography. Draw festive shapes in the air, like hearts or stars – the result will make a great personalised photo card idea for Christmas this year! Set your shutter speed between 2-5 seconds to give your subject enough time to draw whatever they wish, along with a high aperture (f/2.8) and low ISO (100) settings.

Tip: Use a timer to ensure your camera is perfectly still as it shoots. Let your model know when it’s time to start drawing, repeating the shape in the air over and over until the shutter closes again. And repeat!

photo Christmas card with photo of couple and sparkler heart around them

Make Your Own ‘Christmas Tree’ with Sparkler Photography

To really get into the festive mood, why not create a Christmas tree with sparkler photography? To do this, have someone stand still in the centre and hold up a star – this will be the top of your tree. Have a second person with the sparkler start from the top and run around the central person whilst the shutter is open. As you run around the subject, make sure the sparkler spirals down and gets wider as you reach the bottom, creating that Christmas tree shape. Here’s a handy video to demonstrate it! We suggest using 20-30 seconds shutter speed for this to allow enough time to spiral from top to bottom, without getting too dizzy…

Tip: The slower you move with the sparkler, the more ‘sparky’ your lines will be. Move faster and you’ll be met with some smooth lines. This is a great tip when it comes to sparkler photography – both are great effects and will depend on what desired result you’re after.

Christmas tree drawn with a sparkler through long exposure photography

Write It Out with Sparklers

Capture a meaningful date or word that will bring back memories when you look back on your sparkler photos in years to come. You can either ask multiple people to get involved, with each individual taking a letter each, or have one person write the whole thing by moving throughout the shot. Remember to write backwards with your sparkler from right to left as the camera captures you face-on. It’s easiest to write in cursive handwriting with all your letters neatly linked up in the sparkler light. Go for a long exposure here again, between 10-30 seconds depending on the length of the word you want to write. We recommend using low ISO settings and high aperture for this.

Tip: If you want clean dotted i’s and neatly crossed t’s, the photographer can cover the lens whilst the sparkler is moved into position to complete the move as seen in this video. Remember that you will need to do all of these movements whilst the shutter is open – if you don’t have long enough, increase the shutter speed and vice versa.

long exposure photography used to draw Love in lettering.

Capture Sparkler Photography On Your Phone

Although the best sparkler photography is captured on a camera with manual settings, you can still create beautiful sparkler photos with your phone. Try searching for a free Slow Shutter Cam app on your smartphone that enables you to take photos with long exposure. Many Android phones now have the ability to adjust camera settings manually too. Simply change the shutter speed and ISO settings as you wish. On iPhone, you can also shoot your sparkler photos in Live mode – once you’ve captured your photo, swipe up to reveal different effects and choose ‘Long Exposure’ for a quick way to take sparkler photos. You’ll still need a sturdy surface or tripod to hold your phone still as you shoot.

Tip: Improve your sparkler photography further with editing. Use a free photo editing app like Lightroom to edit your sparkler photos on-the-go, straight from your phone. Play around with the exposure, shadows and sharpness of your sparkler photos to really make your images pop.

Sparkler photo used as Novembers photo on a square photo calendar in kitchen

Once you’ve had your fun and captured some impressive sparkler photos, remember to show them off in the best way possible. Display your favourite shots in a beautiful piece of Wall Art for all to enjoy. Alternatively, your sparkler photos will make a great addition to a personalised Photo Calendar – showcase it for the month of November to truly reflect the season and get into the winter spirit.

Show Us Your Sparkler Snaps

We hope you feel inspired to get out into your garden this Bonfire Night to create a night of sparkle and joy, without the crowds. Remember to have fun with it and take lots of photos! Share your creative sparkler photography results with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.