Happy 4th of July and a how-to create a Sparkler Photo

Lisa Lehmann

Posted on July 04 2012

As an American, today I celebrate my FREEDOM - Freedom to do, Freedom to act, Freedom to believe. I am grateful to our Founding Father's who shared such vision...such innovation...and were willing to take risks to do things differently.
I LOVE the 4th of July...I love parades, and red-white-and-blue. I love fireworks, and sparklers. I love face/arm painting and time with friends.
I do have a penchant for photography, and my family is used to acquiescing to my goofy ideas. Yesterday, I posted the "love" photo above from last years 4th of July on my Facebook page, and several of you asked "how did you do that"?
Let's just say, not without MUCH complaining, a LOT of trial and error, and a BILLION sparklers! But for those of you that want to try to make your own sparkler photo...here is what you can do!
What you need:
  • an SLR camera
  • a tri-pod - honestly, I didn't use a tripod. Maybe it is because of what I do, but I have incredibly steady hands. A tripod just assures that you can keep your lens open for the longest time without any shake.
  • flashlight - to help you focus on the subjects - and a flashlight person, unless you can do 2 things at once :)
  • sparklers
  • a lighter and a "lighter person"
  • a bucket of water - for said sparklers *smile*
  • willing subjects
How to create your photo using sparklers.
  • Wait until it is dark enough. You want the sparklers to be your primary light source. And a dark background helps make your image stand out even more.
  • Decide on what image or word you want to appear. You will give each person a "job" - either their letter or shape. Basically, they will draw the shape in the air over and over again quite quickly until it's time to throw the sparklers in your bucket of water. This is a good time to let them practice and get all squealing out of the way. *note* the faster the movement, the thinner the light stream. the slower, the thicker.
  • Set your camera on the tripod and frame your image.
  • Set your aperture to a small setting in order to maintain a sharp focus. I used f-stop of 3.8.
  • Set your shutter speed to S-L-O-W - try different settings - this is a good time to have one person light a sparkler and just play with the timing.
  • Have your "lighter" person light the sparklers.
  • Have someone illuminate your subjects with the flashlight so you can focus. Then quickly turn off the flashlight and....
  • Now shoot....shoot....shoot....
Have fun and Happy 4th of July!
xoxo,
lisa

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