How To Photograph Sparkler Writing

JM and I bought some sparklers last year on the 4th of July; they’re so much fun! And, they’re a great photo opportunity if you want to have some awesome streaks of light and sparkles in your photos! So today I’m going to show you how to photograph sparkler writing. It’s perfect for the 4th of July, weddings, engagement photo shoots, or any sort of celebration!

Learn how to photograph sparkler writing and trails with this simple tutorial! Great for the 4th of July, weddings, or engagement shoots!

With just a few simple camera settings, sparklers, and a tripod, you can take awesome photos! You can write out words, draw a heart, or just draw some awesome squiggles in the air and make it look like there’s a fairy flying around you!

How To Photograph Sparkler Writing

Here’s what you need: (affiliate links below to the products I use and recommend)

  • sparklers
  • a camera with manual settings
  • a tripod

Note: I used my Canon Rebel T3i and my Vanguard Alta Pro tripod for these photos and they turned out great! The T3i has been discontinued but you can still find it on Amazon, or the Canon Rebel T5i is the newest version of that same camera. But any camera where you can manually set the shutter speed will work just fine. And if you don’t have a tripod, you can work around it by setting the camera on a table or a brick or something sturdy.


It’s really easy to take pretty photos of sparklers, but it will take a bit of practice, so make sure you have a lot of sparklers!

Manually set the shutter speed

If you have a DSLR like mine, start by setting the camera to Shutter Priority mode. This means you can manually set the shutter speed, and the camera will automatically adjust the aperture and ISO for you. Or if you prefer to shoot in full manual mode and adjust all of the settings yourself, you can do that too!

The shutter speed needs to be at least half a second in order to capture the trail of light made with a sparkler, but you can set it longer than that if you want to. Make sure that the shutter speed is long enough for you to draw out your whole design with the sparkler. For instance, just making a small squiggle may only require half a second, but writing out the word “love” may require 3 seconds.

Learn how to photograph sparkler writing and trails with this simple tutorial! Great for the 4th of July, weddings, or engagement shoots!

Write from right to left

Normally you write from left to right, but since you are facing the camera, it’s going to be mirrored. If you write a word in the air like you normally would, it will be backwards in the camera! If you’re just making a shape or a squiggle it doesn’t matter as much, but for words or initials (like I did below), go from right to left!

Learn how to photograph sparkler writing and trails with this simple tutorial! Great for the 4th of July, weddings, or engagement shoots!

Write in cursive

If you’re going to write a whole word, write in cursive. There’s no way to make gaps between letters with a sparkler, so cursive is your best bet since the letters all flow together anyway! Or you can just get a little creative in how you “attach” the letters to each other, like JM did in the USA photo below.

Learn how to photograph sparkler writing and trails with this simple tutorial! Great for the 4th of July, weddings, or engagement shoots!

Keep your body still so it doesn’t blur

In most of these photos our legs are pretty clear and sharp, but our upper bodies are blurred. Your arms are going to be blurry no matter what, but if you want to be in the photo as a subject of the photo (rather than just the guy in the background who is making the awesome light drawings!), keep yourself as still as possible while only moving your arm.

In the photo below JM and I tried really hard to only move our arms so that our bodies would appear in the center of the heart, and it worked pretty well! Another little trick is, set your shutter speed for longer than you need, and hold your final position with your sparkler at the end of your drawing for an extra second. You can see my arm looks as if it is at the bottom of the heart, but in reality it drew the entire right half of the heart and only ended up at the bottom for an extra second. But since my arm was moving for the first few seconds and then still, the camera picked up on the still part more than the motion part.

Learn how to photograph sparkler writing and trails with this simple tutorial! Great for the 4th of July, weddings, or engagement shoots!

Use an extra person if necessary

Another way to take a good photo of both a person and some cool sparkler writing is to use an extra person. This is especially helpful for wedding or engagement photos where you definitely want to see the people in the photos, as well as the lights. Just tell your subjects to stand absolutely still, set a super long shutter speed, light a sparkler yourself, run into the frame, draw some fun stuff, and run out! It might seem like you would end up in the picture with them, but if you’re quick, have a long shutter speed, and are wearing dark clothing, you won’t be visible!

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself!

Use an off-camera flash

The sparklers provide a good amount of light on the people in these photos, but if you absolutely need more light, use an off-camera flash rather than the one attached to your camera. If you use the flash on your camera, it will interfere with your camera’s ability to capture the light from the sparklers. So use your off-camera flash to light the subject of your photo, and let your camera capture the light from the sparklers.

Practice, practice, practice!

I probably took about 50 photos that night to get about 5 or 6 that turned out good. Some of the photos were just me adjusting the light settings on the camera, some were halfway cut off because the shutter speed wasn’t long enough to get the whole word in, and some just looked wrong and the letters weren’t formed correctly because it’s hard to write in the air without seeing what you’re doing!

But if you have a little patience, you’ll end up with awesome photos!

Want to share this tutorial with your friends? Just click any of the share buttons on the left to share with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.!

If you liked this project, check out these other simple 4th of July projects!

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Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Pam @ House of Hawthornes says

    5 years ago

    This is fabulous!!! I tried to do this last year, totally last minute and took probably 200 photos and not a one of them turned out. I’m going to practice a few nights prior to the Fourth this year! Pinning and saving in my bookmarks so I can pull it out in a few days 🙂

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