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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Murton

How to Photograph Sparklers with Your Phone

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Light painting with sparklers is so pretty and fun to do! Many people get frustrated trying to capture good sparkler photos so I'm going to try to help break it down and teach you how to photograph sparklers using your smartphone!

How to Photograph Sparklers with Your Phone

Decide if you want some color and details in the background of your photograph or want your photos to be darker. It's a personal preference and honestly, it can change depending on your mood or the holiday/event you are photographing.

Taking photos right after dusk will allow your photos to have more background details in them, while waiting until it's later will cause the background to be darker. While I'm not a professional photographer, I do enjoy photography as a hobby and love playing around with settings to see what I can come up with. Let's get started.

Camera Mode

"Manual" mode or "Pro" camera mode works best when trying to capture sparklers with your phone. I have an Android phone so my instructions may be slightly different than yours, but the concept is the same. Once you're in the camera app, go to "more" to change your camera mode and then select "pro" to change your settings. My settings are along the bottom and I can click each one to change them.

Keep your ISO low, mine is set to 100, to keep your background from being too grainy. Sometimes I don't mind the grainy background but a lower ISO makes your image sharper. In a digital camera, I change my f-stop, but in my smartphone, I don't change it. If you can or choose to change my photos are set to f1.8. I didn't change mine from the settings when I switched to "pro", so you might not have to either.

Phone Settings

What we are going to be playing around with is the "speed" setting or shutter speed setting. If you're new to photography, shutter speed basically tells your camera how long to "stay open" to capture light. For most sparkler photos, I found settings between 1/6 second and 8 seconds work the best, but let's break it down more.

To capture a pretty picture of the sparkler, you'll want a setting more like 1/6 or 1 second.

If you want to draw shapes and create long lines of light using your sparklers, you'll need to increase your shutter speed to more like 4-8 seconds.

Sparkler Photography

Now, let's look at some examples and what shutter speed I used to capture them.

Shutter speed - 1/6 second

I wanted this one to be her holding the sparkler and that was my focus. I didn't mind the dark background.

Shutter speed - 1 second

This photo was taken after the first one. You can see by increasing the shutter speed, it captured more light, and therefore the sparkler is brighter, you can see your subject more, and the background has some color in the sky.

Shutter speed - 1/6 second

I changed the angle a little bit and shortened the shutter speed again. Sparklers are unpredictable and this time I captured a little sparkler flair that was a fun surprise! I always recommend taking a few of the same shots because every time it's going to be a little bit different.

Writing with Sparklers

Writing with sparklers is fun to do by yourself or with other people. Each person can be assigned a word or number to "write" with sparklers. Or you can strike a fun pose and have a second person run around you creating the light trails or designs.

When writing with sparklers and having a long shutter speed, you'll create blurry images if you aren't careful. Set your phone against something to help stabilize it or use a phone tripod. All of my photos below were created without a tripod.

Shutter speed - 8 seconds

Having a long shutter speed allowed me to have the time to do light writing with sparklers to write the word, love.

Shutter speed - 8 seconds

The kids enjoyed playing around and drew wings behind each other.

Shutter speed - 4 seconds

You can see the differences between this and the previous photo. We learned through trial and error that 4 seconds wasn't quite long enough to finish the design they had in mind.

This was taken a few years ago but you can see the idea behind writing dates or numbers for your photos. This is fun to do while ringing in the New Year!

Here are some other fun examples of playing around with light writing and creating shapes and designs. If you're doing a design with a second person, the faster that person moves, and doesn't stay still in one spot, the less you will see them.

These tips will also work with smaller ground fireworks as well. Bigger fireworks are a different post for another day.


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