It’s that time of year! Cookouts, flag flying, and fireworks! It’s the Fourth of July! What better way to celebrate this nation’s independence than with fireworks, sparklers, and of course the PHOTOGRAPHS to commemorate it all.

getting good sparkler shots

Here are some tips on getting great shots of sparklers and fireworks! And if you want to do some more serious sparkler writing, see my post on that here .

1. NO FLASH–skip the flash. The sparklers (or fireworks) will be giving off lots of light. The flash can just complicate things and blow out your image.

2. AV MODE (APERTURE PRIORITY)–the best way to do this is full on manual, do some test shots and pick the best exposure. But if you’re just in a hurry and want the path of least resistance, AV mode is the way to go. Yay for shortcuts 🙂  This lets you select your aperture, and your camera decides the appropriate shutter speed. Start with an aperture somewhere around f14 (this is a relatively small aperture, meaning you’ll get lots of details in your sparkler shots–lots of sparks and whisps of light. if you want more of a motion blur, try a larger aperture like f8)

3. STEADY–use a tripod. If you don’t have one, or are like me and usually can’t be bothered with setting it up, use a table or other solid surface to steady your camera.

4. LOW ISO– start with a low ISO (100 or 200) this will keep your colors rich and reduce noise in the photo so your black night sky will be really black, and not bright or grainy. If you’re having trouble with your photos being way to dark you can always bump this up in a pinch, but I’d say adjust your other settings first and keep the ISO as low as possible.

5. LONG EXPOSURE– ok, so if you’re using AV mode, your camera should take care of this, but if not, or if you’re in manual mode, just remember these two words! LONG EXPOSURE is the whole idea here, meaning your shutter is open for a LONG time; Anywhere from 1-8 seconds depending on your other camera settings. Do some test shots, and once you’re exposure is the way you want it, have fun with the sparklers! Have your kids try writing their names(they’ll need to do it backwards to get it right in camera, so it’s good for older kids), get designs by having them swirl their arms around, making hearts, letters, jumping up and down, anything goes. Wherever that sparkler goes you’re going to end up with a cool little light trail.

6. NOT DARK YET?– if you have kids, and your sparkler fun is happening before it’s pitch dark outside, the same rules apply. Your exposure won’t be as long, but you should still try an aperture around f14–even f11, or f16 to get lots of details in the sparkler…experiment is the word of the day. try a couple different settings and see which you like best! It’s digital, peeps! don’t sweat the throw away shots!

7.iPHONE–Knowing your camera is amazing! Liberating! it gives you the freedom to be as creative as you want and empowers your artsy spirit with the knowledge of how different settings will affect your image(HOORAY!). But alas, we don’t all have time to study photography (WOMP WOMP). And even those of us that do know what’s up with all those settings on the dial don’t always have time to bust out the big guns. Sometimes we’re just armed with our trusty iPhones. If that’s you, not to worry! I’ve got you covered! Ok well not me personally, but there are people out there that have made some apps specifically for long exposures on the iPhone. So technically, they have you covered. Either way, now you have NO excuse not to get some amazing sparkler/ firework shots. Here are a couple of popular ones:

Slow Shutter!

Slow Shutter Cam


There are TONS of long exposure /slow shutter apps so browse the App Store and see which one strikes your fancy.

LOVE sparkler writing


Happy Fourth Everyone!! Let me know in the comments if the tips helped and I’d love to see your shots so leave me a link to your website or tag me in your instagram shots @saratallent !!