How to Photograph Sparklers at Night (DSLR Settings)

Happy 4th of July! Hope everyone is celebrating our wonderful nation and enjoying some much needed time off and extra time with family! Thought todays post could be somewhat topical since most sparklers are lit today. Hope you enjoy!

(and our photos from last year:)

First thing you need to know is that you can't shoot them during the day. I mean, you *can* but they just will not show up -- no matter how many you light at once. I recommend shooting them at dusk (first batch of photos in the dress) or at nighttime (second batch of shapes).

For photos at dusk we usually just kick up the ISO -- those exact settings are:
  • Camera: Aperture Priority 
  • ISO: 2000
  • Aperture: f/2
  • Shutter Speed: 1/160
At night it's a whole new ballgame. Really you can mess around and see what works for you but the key here is to make sure your shutter speed is really really slow. You've might experienced this when your settings are off and it takes 30 seconds for the shutter to click and actually take a photo. That is what you need!

When the shutter speed is really long, it is able to capture any moving light and in our case sparklers. That's how we're able to draw the shapes. The only thing to remember is to keep the camera COMPLETELY still or else your photo will turn out like a blurry mess. We usually find a chair to rest it upon but of course a tripod will work best!

We were a little off this year in terms of remembering what exact camera settings to use but whatever we did obviously turned out fine so take these exact settings (minus the shutter speed) with a grain of salt. Pretty sure if you mess with those you'll still get your desired affect for photos at night:
  • Camera: Manual
  • ISO (auto -- camera chose): 640
  • Aperture: f/16
  • Shutter Speed: 10.0 (this is measured in seconds)
Some helpful tips for shooting:
  • The longer the shutter speed, the more time you have to draw. So if it's a longer word or a more complicated drawing, bump up the shutter speed
  • Stay as still as you can be (minus your arm doing the drawing) it will help keep your body somewhat in tact in the photo
  • Have distant lighting in the background -- this will help you show up more in the photo and it will give the sparkling light some more color
  • Edit! The magic is in the editing so don't worry if your photo didn't turn out the way you hoped. Just get the drawing and go from there
  • For more vibrancy, use two sparklers at a time!

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