Ocean Blue Photography and Design | Karly's sparkler portraits in Modesto, Ca

Karly's sparkler portraits in Modesto, Ca

June 29, 2016

The summer has just began, and you know what that means: Sparkler pics are about to light up your social media feeds and the night! Sparkler pictures are fun and magical. I mean who doesn't love sparklers? They have become more and more popular at weddings and many use them to write words or draw during long exposures. We thought that we would get a jump on things and play with some sparklers of our own. Below are the results...and keep scrolling for some tips and tricks for capturing your own photos.

Ready to try it for yourself? Here's some tips and tricks for long-exposures:

Things you will need:

  • A LOT of sparklers.
  • A camera with manual settings.
  • A tripod. 
  • A flash.
  • No ambient light.


  • If you want to write a word, try to use one person per letter or use one person to write words in cursive. (An easy way to do this is to have the subject hold the sparkler and then have another person light another sparkler off of their already lite sparkler to write a word or make a shape. This makes it appear like the subject wrote the word, but in fact another person did. You can even come out from behind the camera, after tripping the shutter, and write the word yourself.)
  • Make sure to write the letters backwards so the camera sees the words the correct way. 
  • Have your subject hold as still as possible, while the flash fires. The flash will help to stop their movement but it will not freeze them completely. So they still need to hold as still as possible.
  • If it's too dark to focus the camera, you can light a sparkler, hold it where you want your focus to be, and focus on it, or use a flashlight to set your focus before you start your exposure.
  • Shutter speed should be anywhere between 3 seconds and 30 seconds, depending on what kind of shape we wanted Karly to draw. To draw a simple circle, it wouldn't take any longer then 3 seconds. To draw something more elaborate, you would need more time. Since it is dark outside, you can get away with leaving your shutter open for a long time.
  • Count out loud, during the exposure, so everyone has the same timing, “One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three.” (The motion to draw or create letters should start on “one” and end on “three.”)
  • An aperture of anywhere between f/11 or f/16 works well. The higher your aperture the more your sparkler will be defined. If you are more wide open your sparkler will appear less defined and more like balls of light.


  • Place your camera on a tripod.
  • Think about what you want to draw and set the shutter speed to last for the right amount of time. 
  • Set your aperture.
  • Have your subject stand in place and focus on them.
  • Fire a test shot with your flash to make sure that everything is exposed properly, before using sparklers. Once you have a good looking photo, with out sparklers, you know that you are ready for the real shot.
  • Pose your subject, light the sparkler, release the shutter, your flash will fire. Once the flash has gone off, let the sparkler movement begin. 




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