How to Photograph Sparkler Light Writing (with a Manual Camera or Iphone)

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Sparkler light writing is such a perfect way to celebrate NYE or the 4th of July! It’s perfect for weddings, memories, or just for fun!

The issue at hand is finding the right app to be able to do this easily. I personally carry around my manual camera with me occasionally, but not everyday. I also carry this camera with me but that’s beside the point. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to photograph Sparkler Light Writing both with a manual camera and with an Iphone. That way everyone can participate!

sparklers for sparkler light writing photography tutorial

Supplies to Photograph Sparkler Light Writing:

Sparklers
Friends
Tripod (make sure your camera or phone fits ahead of time)
Lighters or Matches
If using an Iphone: LongExpo App

If you are using LongExpo app, here’s what it looks like below. There are a ton of Iphone apps that allow you to alter your shutter speed for long exposures. We’ll be doing just that to make these sparkler images. The issue is, most of the apps to alter your shutter speed cost! LongExpo is the only one I have found that allows you to alter your shutter speed and is also free to use. Perfect!

inside the longexpo app sparkler photo graphic

camera settings for an iphone longexpo app

These photographs can only be taken at night. You will also want to set up in a dark place that doesn’t have any lights in your exact frame. Any bright lights will also show up in your finished photos.

Next, you will likely need some friends to join in on the fun! If you want to create words, you will need the number of friends as number of letters in that word. For example, to write “cool” like below, you will always need 4 friends. For “Bowie” at the bottom, you will need 5 friends. Plus, 1 more person to tend to the camera.

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Before you get started, you will want to set up your tripod. This will help you determine the size of your frame, where everyone should stand. Always test your tripod before you get out in the field because tripods can vary from tabletop to full size. They always have additional parts that need to be screwed in and connected first.

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Once you set up your tripod, you can create your exact frame to know where everyone should stand. You should also determine and how big everyone should write their letters.

Then you will need to do a test shot to determine your shutter speed. I would recommend starting at around 20 seconds. In the world of Sparkler Photography, that’s a long time! You will not have to perform the motions as fast as you think.

If you are concerned about wasting sparklers in your test photos, just use 1 in the center of your frame. Even with 1 sparkler you can make cool shapes like the ones we’ve shown here – hearts, crowns, or even abstract shapes.

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If you are using a manual camera you will also need to determine your depth of field. For this, you will want to keep a wide crisp focus to ensure that all pieces of your photo are perfectly in focus.

Last, whether you are using a manual camera or Iphone, you will need to determine your ISO. For a manual camera, you can start with 800 and then test it from there. For an Iphone, the LongExpo app only allows up to ISO 400 – so that’s a factor that you may need to work around.

At 20 seconds, if your photo is too bright and you can see the people too clearly you will want a shorter shutter length. If it’s too dark and the sparkler isn’t bright, make the exposures longer. Some will consider it “cheating” to alter the exposure in an editing app like Lightroom, but it’s something you can consider!

abstract shapes with a sparkler writing photo tutorial

Once you get the exposure length perfect, it’s time to have some fun! Here are a ton of different ideas you could try for your photos. If it’s NYE you could write the year and for a wedding you could write the word “love.” The possibilities are endless.

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So when and where are you going to photograph your Sparkler Light Writing? Tell us in the comments below! And pictures or it didn’t happen. 😉

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