Taking a great sparkler photo , as wedding photographers we are always looking for the unique shot. The composition every bride will point to first when sharing her memories of the big day. The picture which will create a blizzard of interest on social media. Very often it’s a candid or off the cuff moment which provides that enduring image. But, staged poses too can be memorable; particularly when they are unusual, novel, and spectacular. Criteria which sparkler photos meet very nicely.
There is nothing new under the sun; particularly at weddings
Although sparkler photography isn’t particularly new its popularity certainly is. The rise of social media and sharing sites such as Instagram, has created more awareness, and consequentially a demand, amongst brides. Many brides, after seeing examples online, want a similar photo at their own wedding. Which is great news for those photographers who are experienced and confident in the technique. But not so great for those who haven’t attempted the shot before or who have achieved less than stellar results. If you are in the later camp here are our top tips on taking great sparkler photos. For technical advice on shutter speeds and equipment see the notes under each photograph.
Sometimes it’s cool to smoke
Sparklers are easy to source online and you can find the common type we are all familiar with from Bonfire Night or there is a more expensive smokeless variety made from steel wire. The later are more expensive but, although it may seem counterintuitive, the cheaper ordinary sparkler are better for our purposes as the smoke they make can create a wonderfully atmospheric shot.
Make the most of ambient light
Fire precautions require all sparkler photography to be shot outdoors so getting the lighting right is of course essential to obtaining a memorable photo. But it is also one of the biggest challenges. Most reception venues are spectacularly unsuited to sparkler photography but you can make the most of any ambient light by positioning it behind the happy couple for the sparkler photo. Needless to say any plans may have to be revised if it’s tipping down with rain.
It’s all in the preparation
Have the guests form a corridor through which the happy couple will walk towards the camera. The width of the corridor should be determined by the brides dress. Make sure the guests are far enough apart to absolutely ensure there is no possibility of any sparklers making contact with the brides outfit. As to how many guests you should have in the corridor; the more the better. I’ve had great results with up to 100 guests taking part and that number of lit sparklers guarantees a spectacular and highly atmospheric result.
Got a light?
When you are ready to take the shot have all the guests light their sparklers at exactly the same time. The best way to achieve this is to split the guests into small groups and allocate one group member to light everyone’s sparklers at your signal. A useful tip here is to take a supply of cheap lighters with you to ensure all guests are able to have their sparklers lit simultaneously. Refillable lighters can be purchased in multipacks from any pound shop in the high street.
The aim here is to have everyone’s sparkler burning at the same rate so the couple arrive at the end of the corridor with the sparklers at the back burning identically to those at the front. This uniformity creates a thrilling effect. Timing is of the essence and with some brands of sparkler only burning for 30 to 45 seconds it is important to get everyone onboard and ready to play their part.
The key to producing an awesome sparkler photo is to organise people into small groups, and the middle person in the group, shown here as L – will provide the initial light (S – Sparkler people). Once one is lit touch them all together and they will all light simultaneously. Once lit – people should move into the second formation.
Point 1 is where the bride and groom should start walking from (light behind remember!) and at around point 2 I generally ask couples to kiss or hug.
Lights, camera, action
Give clear vocal commands to the ‘sparkler lighters’ and then when everyone is in place to the bride and groom to start their walk towards you. Take shots from as many angles as you can and you will have more chance of capturing the perfect moment. Make sure the guests nearest to you are a safe distance from the camera as sparklers can strip the coating from the lens.
Finally, never try and hold a sparkler yourself when taking the photo. Yes, the flame so near to the lens looks spectacular but more than one hapless photographer has had their fingers, quite literally, burned trying this. Leave it to the guests to hold the sparklers while you concentrate of getting the stunning shot which will be shared and liked on social media and hopefully seen by future clients.