How to photograph sparklers

Photographing sparklers is like photographing fireworks except it’s nothing like that 🙂

There are several things you have to consider if you want to photograph sparklers at home. Firstly, they are very bright. And secondly, they only last for a short time (15-20 sec). So you need to set all of the camera settings before you light the sparklers.

You will need to use a tripod in this case (because of longer shutter speeds needed for this shot). Alternatively you can place your camera on something steady (like a table) if you don’t have a tripod with you.

Basic settings for photographing sparklers

Shutter Speed is the most important setting here. You need to set longer shutter speeds to see trails of light from sparklers. It could be set between 1/4 of a second and 1 second to give your sparkles more glow and more dimension.

As you can see from the first picture below, 1/640 shutter speed is too high, as a result we don’t see enough of sparkles. The next picture was shot with 1 sec. shutter speed, which gives more trails of light (maybe a bit too much).

ISO should be set as low as possible. This way your image will have less noise. Probably somewhere between 200-400 is fine. But it all depends on how much light is available and how bright you want your image to be.

Aperture is the last thing to worry about. It’s up to you how you want to set it. Just make sure that everything what needs to be in focus is actually in focus.

Cupcakes on a cake stand with sparklers
ISO 100, shutter speed 1/4, aperture – f4

Auto mode vs Manual

Manual mode is the best option to photograph sparklers, as YOU (and not your camera) are in control of the end result. In manual mode you can change both the shutter speed and the aperture of your image. But if you are not confident at shooting at manual mode use Shutter Priority.

Shutter Priority is also a good option, if you don’t like using Manual mode. Set your Sutter speed first and work from there. Adjust ISO if your image looks too dark.

Auto Mode is not likely to give you any good results. Cameras tend to set higher shutter speeds, much higher than is needed in this case. You won’t see trails of light from sparklers (like in the first image above).

Final Thoughts

If you are photographing sparklers on a cake you have to be aware your background. Simple backgrounds without many distractions will look the best in any kind of photography. Dark backgrounds are better as it is easier to see sparkles against dark surfaces.

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