Have you ever wondered how to capture lighting painting with sparklers?
It’s a super fun photography effect which uses slow shutter speeds to capture the trail of a light source. It looks fantastic, and… it’s easier to achieve than you might think!
You’ll need to be shooting in manual mode so that you can control your shutter speed, because it’s the key ingredient in capturing the light trails that create the light painting effect.
Related: Getting Out of Auto
Or a compact camera with manual functions, allowing you the ability to select a slow shutter speed.
When using slow shutter speeds it’s important to stabilize the camera to avoid camera shake… so a tripod or a flat surface you can safely set your camera on is essential for this experiment.
You’ll need a dark environment so you can see the light trails, so either a dark room indoors or you can try this outside at night. If shooting outdoors, avoid trying light painting near street lights or other city lights as they’ll compromise the light you want to capture.
You’ll need a LOT of sparklers, there will be some experimenting and refining before you get something you’re happy with!
You can also use a torch/flashlight, glow stick, candle, laser pointer… but we love the gold sparkle effect achieved with a sparkler! (For my test shots I used the torch light on my iphone!)
Set your camera on a tripod, and decide your composition.
This is tricky, because your subject doesn’t exist until you start painting. So place an object or person in the position you intend writing and have them hold a torch or light so you can grab focus with auto focus, then set the camera to manual focus so that it’s locked in position.
You’ll also probably be using a much higher aperture (I used f/14) so even if your subjects moves a little you’ll safely have them in focus!
Your exposure will need to be as long as it takes to complete your “drawing” in the air from start to finish. Most short writing will take approximately 2-4 seconds, then a little longer if you start writing long messages!
For this style of shot your aperture is only being used to achieve correct exposure. The depth of field effect is neither here nor there. Start with your aperture at about f/8.. then if your shot is too light, keep increasing the f-stop until you have the exposure you desire.
Set your ISO at it’s minimum (100-200), as you don’t need to be letting in more light by increasing your ISO!
For my sparkler writing images below my settings were:
I had my girls stand in front of the camera with my iphone light initially so I could test my set-up. I had my settings at SS 2 secs and f/5 to begin… which was WAY too bright.. so I kept increasing the f-stop to close down the aperture until I was happy with it at f/16.
When I introduced the sparklers it was a little too dark (they’re not as bright as the iphone torch) so I had to adjust slightly again, and decreased the f-stop down to f/14.
Then it became a fun experimentation! See that lovely swizzle on the right… hmm, that’s me trying to write “click” haha… hopefully you’ll be more successful at the “Writing” part than me… I also forget you have to write backwards!
These images have no editing at all, except to export out of Lightroom. But I had my girls wearing black tops, they help the sparklers out from them, and it was very very dark outside! In the purple heart image up top, I used the white balance hue slider to turn it purple!
In the final image I wanted to capture my daughter’s face, so I adjusted the settings to ensure she was exposed… I used f/2.8, SS 1/20s and upped my ISO to 1000.
So. Much. FUN!
They honestly had a blast!
And that’s how it’s done! I can’t wait to see you create your own beautiful artistic images with this fabulous technique!
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