Long Exposure – Taking Sparkler Pictures


It’s that time of year.

Bonfire night!

The fireworks, the toffee apples, the bonfire, it’s amazing! The sparklers are one of my favourite parts.

With sparkles comes my first Photography Tech post for you on long exposure. Long exposure photography involves using a long-duration shutter speed to capture paths of moving light. The light sources become clearly visible when the shutter is open for a long time.

The key thing about all of this is to use a tripod. If you don’t have one find somewhere steady to rest your camera. We highly recommend a JOBY Gorilla Pod, it’s easy to attach anywhere and we popped ours on our front door for this shoot. They come in all shapes and sizes, there will be one for your camera and they start from £10.

The easiest way to take sparkler pictures on a compact camera is to find ‘shutter mode’ and find a way to leave the shutter open for as long as possible.
On a DSLR put your camera on manual (M). Put the ISO on 100 and the aperture anywhere from f/8 to f/11. Play around with the length of the exposure. You can do anything from 4 seconds which will give you an amazing quick star or swirl, to 30 seconds which will let you fill the garden with a swirling vortex. It’s all about experimenting. Check out the pictures below, we used a torch to draw with the light which is safer for younger children.

How to take Sparkler Photography:

1. Tripod:
Put your camera on a tripod.

2. Manual Mode/Shutter priority:
Put your camera in manual mode and change the settings: Shutter speed, aperture, ISO.

3. Shutter: 
Adjust the shutter speed the length of the exposure you’d like depending on the amount of light you want to capture.

4. Aperture:
Adjust your aperture. Experiment until you get the result you like.

5. ISO:
Leave your ISO around 100.

5. Post Production:

 Play around on Photoshop/PicMonkey and change the saturation to change the colour of the sparkler.

Just so you know. We were dedicated to bringing you this post. We waited for a clear night and none came, so we went out in the pouring rain and got drenched. You need to try some sparkler pictures to make all our efforts worth while.

It’s bonfire night, try something new! Write your name in light, get the kids to draw pictures and hopefully now you’ll know how to capture it. We’re throwing down the gauntlet. Up there at the top of this post is our best effort at a ‘Tots100′ written in light. We want to see yours. So tweet them using the #SparkleTots hashtag.

Settings:    ISO 100       f/ 2.2        15 second exposure

Discussion7 Comments

  1. We did something very similar at the weekend but with glowsticks inside to celebrate the early dark nights. We had so much fun – everyone from youngest to eldest. Definitely worth the effort of finding out how to manually set shutter speed.

  2. Excellent work and thanks so much for holding my hand earlier on twitter and helping me work it out. I *will* get there with the manual settings on my camera, such a shame not to understand them!

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  4. It’s well worth trying out new things and getting to grips with manual. I’m more than happy to hold hands on Twitter, look at the results you’ve got! Love the glow sticks idea Zoe!!

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