Create the Perfect Sparkler Photos

Written by
Joy Garcia
July 2, 2019

In need of some tips and tricks for those awesome 4th of July sparkler photos?

No problem, we've got you covered. Whether you've been hired to shoot a 4th of July event - or you're planning to take photos of your kids and their friends, these tips from our team photographer will come in handy. Before we get started though, we need to let you in on a little secret... all sparklers are not created equal. This is important depending on the type of photo you are looking for. The longer the sparkler, the longer you can attempt at capturing. Makes sense right? Sparklers range from 20 seconds - 120 seconds, longer ones being best for light trails. Now, let's continue.

Let's talk about camera settings.

First up, nail that exposure triangle!

  1. Shutter Speed: This all depends on what kind of sparkler photo you are trying to achieve. If you are looking to freeze the action, then bump up that shutter speed over 1/250. Digging the light trails look instead? Then slow down your shutter speed. Keep in mind that anything lower than 1/60 is going be hard to handhold with a sharp subject focus and without a flash to freeze the action.
  3. ISO: If you want more ambient background colors, choose a lower ISO so that you can have a wider dynamic range. Need more light? Push up your ISO so that you can get a properly exposed photo. But be careful, if you push your ISO too far then that pesky digital noise starts to creep up on you.
  5. Aperture: Lower apertures are going to allow for more light to come through the lens and create the most bokeh, f1.8 - 2.2 being ideal. If you would like to have a wider depth of field, then push the aperture up to f8.

Can we talk about using the camera with flash a little bit more? Absolutely!

  1. Use an external flash: You are going to want to bounce the flash off to the side or point the flash straight up. Remember, this is to freeze the action, not fill the photo with light.
  3. Set your flash to rear curtain sync: That means the shutter on your camera will close at the end of a long exposure image.
  5. Lastly, set the right exposure and make some memories!
ISO 640     f/2.8      1/100 sec
ISO 250     f/2.8      1/30 sec
ISO 320     f/5.6      1 sec    external flash

Take Great Sparkler Photos with Your Phone

Battery died and forgot to bring backup? At a party but didn't bring your camera? NO PROBLEM. Take that thing out of your pocket and put it to some use! Phones can capture a decent photo when all else fails.

  1. Use burst mode on your phone: To do this, hold down the shutter button. This is going to take many photos in succession so that you can get that one clear shot. Plus, why not? The images are digital and free.
  3. No flash for the phone: Unless you are into those images that come out fully white, you are going to want to turn that sucker off. Phone flashes tend to be a bit too much for closer sparkler candids.
  5. Underexpose the image: Don't worry, you can always pull up the image in post production. Besides, you don’t want to overexpose the very thing that you are featuring.

Can't wait to see all the sparkler photos this week! I'm sure you all will be taking some amazing ones for Fourth of July. Post some on Instagram, hashtag #PDsparkler so we can see them too!Have a great holiday!

Please keep in mind that sparkler photos are best done outside to minimize the risk of objects catching fire.
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