Painting with Light - How to Photograph Sparklers

 Painting with Light - How to Photograph Sparklers by Moonbug Photography

Painting with Light - How to Photograph Sparklers by Moonbug Photography

I did this last year and we all had a ball.  If you don't like for your kids to play with sparklers, you can do this with any light source, like flashlights, phones, glowsticks, etc...Here's what you need:

  1. A dark night

  2. A camera with manual settings

  3. A sturdy tripod - if you don't have a tripod, find a level, study surface at the right height that you can set your camera on. I've done this several times in a pinch.

  4. Lots of sparklers or other light sources

  5. A person or two or three to paint with.

Figure out where you are going to play and know how to work your settings ahead of time so you are not fidgeting around with your camera when your kids are burning all the sprinklers.  It's so exciting for them you have to be prepared!  Here is the basic recipe (you can adjust as needed):

  1. Set camera to Manual mode

  2. Turn your flash off

  3. ISO = 400

  4. Aperture = 4.o This is how big the hole gets in the lens. The smaller the number = a bigger hole. A bigger hole lets more light in and makes the photo brighter.

  5. Shutter Speed = 4" (4 seconds) This is how fast the shutter opens and closes. The smaller the number, the slower it gets. The slower it goes, the more light is let in which makes the photo brighter. Most of the time we shoot between 60 and 320, so 4" is very slow. That's why you need a tripod.

  6. Do a few tests so that the person painting stands in the right spot and paints in the right spot so they don't go out of the frame.

Not getting it quite right?  Try these things to adjust your recipe:

If your photo is too dark:  raise your ISO, reduce the aperture number if you can (some lenses won't be able to do this), lower your F-stop.

If your photo is too light: lower your ISO, raise the aperture number, raise your shutter speed (you don't want to do this too much because you need time to write).

Make these changes in small increments.  Small changes can make a big difference.

Tips:

1.  If you have younger kids, just have them make simple shapes.

2.  If you are spelling a word, make it backwards to create a mirror image.

3.  Also, with younger kids, get set up and practice first.

 Painting with Light - How to Photograph Sparklers by Moonbug Photography

Painting with Light - How to Photograph Sparklers by Moonbug Photography

4.  If you have trouble finding all your settings, read your manual.

See how the last circle picture is a little different?  That one was set for 5 seconds instead of 4.  The sparkle trails are longer and smoother.  Fun huh?  Let me know how it goes!