How to Photograph Sparklers at a Wedding Reception

To literally add some more light (and fun) to their celebration, many couples often opt for sparklers – as a part of their decor or as a prop for wedding photos. But one of the most common ways couples use these is by planning a sparkler exit. A sparkler sendoff is on the ‘must-have’ list for several couples who not only want a grand exit but also spectacular photographs as they make their way out. But to photograph it right, you have to carefully plan all your moves, including your lighting and photography spots. It would also help you to guide your couple to walk or pose a certain way during the sparkler exit. If you need some guidance on how to photograph sparklers at a wedding, this blog has some tips that could help.

Are Sparklers Legal?

Infographic stating double check areas where the use of sparklers is legal in the US

Before we get into the part of discussing how to photograph sparklers at a wedding, it is important to check if it’s even legal to use them at the location of the wedding. You can take a look at the areas in the US where the use of sparklers is legal here.

How to Prep Your Clients For a Sparkler Exit

You may not be your couple’s wedding planner, but if they are planning to have a sparkler exit, here are some tips that you could give them in order for them to have better photos from their grand exit (and for you to get better pictures too!).

  1. Guide them on getting the supplies: Guide your clients to get long sparklers, preferably 36 inch long ones, and ask them to get some as a backup because sometimes, things don’t go as planned in one go.
  2. Get long lighters: Along with long sparklers, you could also advise them to get several long lighters. This way, guests will find it easy to light them, and there won’t be much waiting until everyone lights up their sparklers.
  3. Get help to hand the sparklers and lighter: The guests could be handed the sparkler and lighter to avoid any chaos or delay. You could ask your couple to check with the venue staff and see if they can assign 2-3 staff members for that.
  4. Have a backup plan: Even when everything is planned, it is important to have an indoor backup plan and ask your couple to be prepared for the same. Other backup options could be glow sticks, confetti, bubbles, streamers tied to sticks, flower petals, etc.
  5. Discuss how long it will take: Your clients might think that the grand sparkler exit is just them walking out together. Therefore, walk them through the logistics and the timeline of how long it will take and why.

Different Types of Lighting Setups for Photographing Sparkler Exits

A black bride and groom make a sparkler exit after their wedding reception
Image Credit @flavio_d_photography

1. On-Camera Flash

When it comes to figuring out how to photograph sparklers at a wedding, on-camera flash is a simple and safe lighting setup. Moreover, it goes well when there is good ambient light, and there are only a few guests, especially if you only have one shot. If you are working in this lighting setup, it is important to keep in mind that a flash has to recycle, so leave a time gap in between taking multiple photos.

2. One Off-Camera Flash

To make one off-camera flash setting work, you need to enable your camera to transmit signals to your external flash so the command can be communicated at the exact time. There are different ways to make this possible, including using air remotes or a kind of transmitter or receiver system.

One off-camera flash lighting setting works great for scenarios when the ambient is not that great, and you have a trustworthy assistant to work with. As your couple makes the exit, you would want your assistant to be ahead of them and remain equidistant from the flash to the subject. Remember to keep your camera and flash both set to Manual.

3. Natural Light

Infographic stating take test shots to get the right exposure and use fast shutter speeds

A natural light setup can be ideal for you if you are capable of quickly figuring out accurate exposure. It also works great when you have excellent ambient lighting at the venue, a lot of people, and a lot of sparklers. First, try taking test shots to get the exposure right. Ensure your shutter speed is high since you don’t have a flash to freeze your subject’s movement. Note that since there is no flash involved, you can simply take multiple pictures without adding any time gap.

4. Off-Camera Flash With a Grid

Off-camera flash with a grid works best when there is good ambient lighting and when you want to add a dramatic element. However, for this setup to work, it is crucial that your assistant is very precise with where they are positioning the grid – as it directs a concentrated light beam which, when pointed at an unwanted place, can make things appear odd in the photos. Also, things might not always work out the first time, so don’t hesitate to ask your couples to go again.

5. One On and One Off-Camera Flash

In this lighting setup, you are working with one on-camera flash (in front of your subject) and one off-camera flash (placed behind your subject). It can be your go-to setup when working in a setting where the ambient light is not so great. Set your on-camera flash with slightly more power than the off-camera flash so that your subject, i.e., your couple is well-lit from the front side, and the backlight is just separating them from the background.

6. One On and Two Off-Camera Flash

Here we have one on-camera flash (in front of the subject) and two off-camera flashes (placed behind the subject). You can go for this lighting setup when there is no ambient light at the venue and when you are fairly comfortable with the technicalities of the scenario. Set your off-camera flashes with slightly more power than your on-camera flash. You can set the height of the light stands as per your liking. If things don’t turn out the way you or your couple wanted in the first go, don’t be afraid to ask for a repeat.

Suggested Read: Flash Photography Tips: A Brief Intro To Artificial Lighting

Practice, Practice, Practice

Infographic stating photographing sparklers at a wedding can be unpredictable. Plan appropriately and keep practicing

Now that you have the basics of how to photograph sparklers at a wedding for different scenarios, it’s time to put it into practice. This simply means – start shooting! Begin with a lighting setup that you are most comfortable with and get going. You can try practicing mock sparkler exits with your assistants or kids to understand the dynamics of the scene. However, we understand that even with all the experience and precision, the outcome of a sparkler exit can’t be predicted. Sparkler wedding photos depend on several different factors. Therefore, one of the ways to make things work is to plan appropriately and practice.

Further Read: Storytelling In Wedding Photography: 5 Ways To Get It Right

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