How to photograph sparkler shapes and words


We are coming up to that weekend in the year when lots of firework & bonfire celebrations take place around the UK, to celebrate My Birthday! OK maybe they are celebrating for other reasons but when it arrives you will want to be armed with your camera to capture the fun that is SPARKLER PAINTING!

The word Photography means to draw with light, and this technique does just that!

I recommend you equip yourself with the following items ready for November 5th celebrations…

You will need:

  • A camera with manual controls
  • A tripod (or a stable surface to sit your camera on)
  • Sparklers!
  • A torch
  • A lighter or matches
  • Gloves for the person with the sparkler!


Pretty they may be, but Sparklers are dangerous little sprites that won’t think twice before hurtling a spark into your eye or up your sleeve! That’s what the gloves are for, oh and hold the sparkler at arms length too.

Sparkler choice

Another way to extend the sparks away from your face is to buy long sparklers, I recommend these Giant 40cm Party Time Sparklers which are also great for capturing particularly long names, phrases or works of sparkly art, because they sparkle for longer!


The Method

  1. Attach your camera to the tripod and direct it at your subject (who is kindly waving a torch around so that you can see them in the dark and focus), compose your shot.
  2. Set your camera ISO to 400
  3. Set your camera mode (typically by moving the dial on top to S, T or Tv depending on camera), to Shutter Priority mode. This allows you to select a specific shutter speed.
  4. Turn the camera flash OFF
  5. Select a slow shutter speed (typically using a dial near your RH forefinger or left and right arrow buttons on the back of the camera) of 5 seconds which will look like 5″ on your camera display (not 1/5)
  6. Photograph your subject drawing with their sparkler!


  • Any light from the sparkler will be captured in the photo during the exposure, so if you start the photo exposure too early before lighting the sparkler you could see an unwanted light trail. Follow this order: Get the sparkler into drawing position – Light the sparkler – Start the camera exposure – Start drawing.
  • The person with the sparkler should remember that writing a word needs to be done backwards, just like writing a message on a window from the inside to someone on the outside.
  • To make a shape appear bolder and brighter, draw over it multiple times.
  • Increase or decrease the length of the exposure accordingly, between 5 and 20 seconds should be ideal depending on other light in the scene.

This is a beginners guide and assumes the photographs are taken in darkness.

Check out my NEW Pinterest board SPARKLER FUN for inspiration on how to get creative with your sparklers.

Tag me in your Sparkler photos @lyndseyjamesphotos over on Instagram – I’d love to see them!

Have a Beautiful Day November 5th fans! (p.s my Birthday is Nov 2nd, bring cake.)

LJ x


Lyndsey James is a photography & styling tutor with over 12 years experience as a professional photographer, and the founder of Photocraft®.

Previously a high street retailer too, Lyndsey combines her retail and commercial photography experience to help others succeed in retail online through her photography & styling events & e-courses. She also speaks at craft & business events around Europe and has worked with Etsy, Folksy, Kirstie Allsopp, Enterprise Nation, Craft Central, Digital Photographer Magazine + more.