The big trend in wedding photography at the moment is taking sparkler pictures. This is one trend I can get down with! Thankfully for us, we’ve had some previous practice with the concept of writing with sparklers. When Pat was first teaching me photography back in 2009, we tried everything. Literally, we experimented with new techniques every single day.
I have to say, my pictures were pretty terrible at that time if I’m being honest. The good thing though? It taught us a lot! We came across light painting one day and instantly wanted to give it a try. So there we were in our tiny living room, taking pictures of a flashlight lighting our faces up, writing different words and laughing hysterically while we were at it. The neighbors probably thought we were having a rave in our house from all of the flashing lights.
Here is one from back in 2010 that we did in our living room.
Throughout the years we’ve kept practicing light painting just for fun. This brings us to our last wedding where Christina wanted a sparkler picture. We had 3 people to help take this shot. One to take the picture, one to write with the sparkler and one holding an off camera flash.
Below is a step-by-step guide of how we setup this shot.
- Wait until its dark. You’ll need to wait until it’s completely dark outside and find a spot where there is little to no ambient light. You want to keep out as much light besides the sparkler as possible.
- Use a tripod to provide image stabilization.
- Use a flashlight to help your cameras autofocus on the subject. Once the autofocus is done, turn off your flashlight and switch to manual focus so you don’t have to wait for your camera to try and autofocus in the dark.
- Use a remote shutter release cable. This is so you can take the picture without any vibration
- Figure out your camera settings. For this picture, we chose a 15 second shutter speed, ISO 400 and aperture f/4.0. Since the shutter is open for so long, you can use a relatively low ISO. The amount of time your shutter is open is dependent on the time it will take for you to write. You could also use BULB mode, too, instead of a specific timer.
- Use an off camera flash. You’ll need someone to hold an off camera flash to light the couple. This is the last step before you close the shutter. This will freeze them in the frame and essentially “erase” any movement that may have occurred while you are writing with the sparkler. We manually set ours to 1/32 power. You only need a small burst of light to both light and freeze them correctly.
- Take test shots. Before we had the couple come out for this photograph, we tested our settings and sparkler writing. That way we could tell how to compose the picture, how big we needed to write and if our lighting was correct.
- Once you have everything and everyone setup you can now have someone in dark clothing do the writing with the sparkler. Hold the sparkler as far away from your body as possible. This will help reduce you from being a part of the photo. Then run around the couple to light them up and then run like hell out of the frame! Once they’re out of the frame, you can pop the flash to freeze them, then close the shutter.
It sounds easy but this did take us a few attempts to get right. Once you have it though, it’s awesome. Oh, and this is definitely fun to do!
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