How to Photograph a Sparkler Exit

EQUIPMENT

Canon 5D Mark iii in manual mode with RAW file format

Canon 50mm lens f/1.2L USM for a smaller wedding with a shorter aisle of guests. My 50mm allows me to capture a clear shot of the newlyweds with a well-rounded look at the guests’ excitement and beauty of the venue behind them.

Canon 85mm lens f/1.2L II USM for a larger wedding with a longer aisle of guests. This 85mm continues to amaze me with its ability to grab intimate moments with that unmatched out-of-focus background.

CAMERA SETTINGS

1/180 sec at f/1.8 and 6400 ISO

1/180 shutter speed is about the lowest I’ll go when capturing a situation with this much movement. Any slower and I could be looking at some really unwanted blur on my subjects hands and arms. By setting my aperture wide open at f/1.8, I can let in that extra light and then bump it up a notch with a higher ISO of 6400. I’ll get some grain with this high ISO, but I think that level of grain aligns really well with the style of the image so I’m happy with it!

A quick note about photographing wide open – beware of the distance between your subjects and you, as well as their relation to each other – then move your feet to correct. For example, if you’re intentions are to capture a photo of the bride and groom where they are both sharply in focus, but one of them starts to guide the other by walking further ahead – you need to move your feet to position yourself further to the right or left so that you are photographing the couple from the side, and not straight on. This puts them at a level distance from you. If you instead continue to shoot straight on with a wide open aperture, you’ll still capture a beautiful moment but don’t be surprised if you end up with one subject most likely very out of focus. It really all depends on what style of image you’re intending to capture.

BEFORE THE EXIT

You have a sea of potentially inebriated guests who were just handed sparks of fire. I highly recommend you control the situation before your hair is accidentally set aflame. I find the best way to do this is to begin by positioning myself in the area where the bride and groom plan to enter the aisle. I, as quickly as possible, then walk through the crowd while kindly and clearly directing guests to create two rows. In addition to using hand signals and clear direction on where to stand, I also remind them to hold the sparklers up towards the center.

Before the bride and groom start coming down the aisle of sparklers, I make sure to take a quick test shot to make sure my settings are on par and adjust the ISO if necessary.

DURING

This is the finale to conclude such an unforgettable night, surrounded by all their family and friends cheering them on. The couple is usually so much fun during their sparkler exit, spontaneously pulling each other close for a kiss or sudden dip. Although my camera is up and ready in continuous shooting mode, I’m by no means relying on it. Instead, I’m remaining ready for the best of moments they experience on their exit journey and anticipate those sweet embraces for the perfect photos.

POST-PROCESSING

Photographing in RAW file format allows for some flexibility in post-processing if necessary. I edit all of my photos in Lightroom 5. The only time I pull an image into Photoshop is when something really distracting needs to be removed from an image’s background, but other than that I’m really happy with Lightroom! When editing a sparkler exit photo, I concentrate on staying true to the actual moments – preserving the warm light coming from the sparklers and embracing the dark night around the frame. If my settings were set correctly on camera, then I shouldn’t have much brightness adjustments to make. Some simple tweaks I usually make include lens correction, a little contrast bump, slight increase in saturation and a grain lift.

I also adore the timeless vibe a black and white sparkler exit photograph offers, so I love to choose one image from the stack and drop all the vibrance and saturation. I tend to choose the most emotional image for this black and white conversion.

 

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July 7, 2017

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