DIY Fireworks Photography with Sparklers and Long Exposures

Fireworks photography with sparklers.

Multi colored light streaks done with sparklers and long exposures.

With Fourth of July just past there has been a proliferation of how-to articles and examples about shooting public fireworks displays. This isn’t one of them.

This is for the stay-at-home types who want to avoid the crowds and celebrate the Fourth with their own pyrotechnics—in this case sparklers. It is possible to use sparklers to create a multicolored extravaganza of light streaks.

Stabilize the Camera on a Tripod or Alternative Support

First you must lock down the camera on a tripod or alternative stabilizing device. The camera must be set to the lowest available ISO. Put the camera on manual and use the bulb or time setting to keep the shutter open for the length of the sparkler burn. Set the aperture to the smallest available stop like f22 or smaller.

Pre-focus to the distance of your subject and put the focus on manual. A wide angle lens is best. Sparklers are incredibly bright so camera sensitivity must be kept to a minimum for the length of the exposure. Then all that’s left is to light the sparkler, open the lens and dance around in front of the camera till the sparkler goes out and you can close the shutter.

Use Filters or Gels to Add Color

Color photo stacking

Separate red white and blue sparkler streaks before stacking in Photoshop.

Sparklers burn in colors but they are subtle. The camera will mostly record bright white or yellow. To add color to the sparkler use filters or colored gels in front of the lens. Here is an example of the three sparkler exposures using no filter then red and blue.

The last step is to combine the three exposures by stacking them in Photoshop or Lightroom and blending all three.

HandlePod on fence post

HandlePod secures a DSLR to a fence post for long exposures.

Key to this process is keeping the camera stable throughout the exposure. HandlePod will stabilize the camera by attaching it to any available support with the elastic cord. In this case the HandlePod was attached to a back yard fence post.

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