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Master storyteller, a sucker for romance, and a lover of educating others in photography. Based in Winston Salem, North Carolina. I love my slobbery puppy Boris, baking treats at midnight, and planning trips with my medical student husband. My purpose it to help you create the most genuine and beautifully raw experience through photography!

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How to Rock Sparkler Exit Photos

Business + Photography Tips

How to rock sparkler exit photos every time! | Photography tips by Hillary Muelleck

Believe me, we’ve all been there. The sparkler exit is a one-and-done thing so if you screw it up, that’s it! You can’t have them run through again! So today..

I’m going to teach you how to rock your next sparkler exit!

The Materials

You will need a camera, video light, and maybe an assistant to help you not back up into fire :)

I’ve talk about my video light on my “What’s in my Bag” blogpost, and you can buy a similar one here. I love it because it’s light-weight, the light intensity is adjustable, AND the temperature of the light is adjustable. All important when it comes to my sparkler exits.

The Camera Settings

I use either a 50mm or a 35mm lens (depending on how much space I have). I love using a shallow depth of field when photographing sparklers. It really makes them POP! So I photograph these exits on the lowest aperture my lens will allow which is usually f. 1.4 which always allows in as much light into my lens as possible. Sparklers happen in the dark so you need all the natural light you can get. I know what your thinking! With an f-stop of 1.4, how do you keep those running people in focus?!? I have a shutter speed of 250+ to keep moving objects in focus. I also crank my ISO. I don’t mind grain in these photos so I’ll commonly fix my ISO between 4000-6400.

The Video Light

When it’s still a little too dark for my liking, but I don’t want to use a flash because those tend to make exits look artificial, I use a video light! I like to keep things as natural looking as possible and I want the couple to look like they are only lit by sparkler light (even if that’ snot entirely true) which is why I love video lights! I can turn the intensity down so I’m adding a tad more light to the couple. Doing this also helps my camera focus quickly! Have you even been in a situation where your camera can’t focus because it’s too dark? I have and you don’t want it to happen during an exit.

The Action

Now I’m going to explain how I actually put all this in to action! As soon as the sparklers are being lit, I automatically adjust my camera settings to aperture 1.4, shutter speed 250, and ISO 4000. I take a test shot and make any needed tweaks. Then I turn on my video light, point it to a guest or my assistant, and take another test shot. I don’t want the video light to be too harsh. It should look as natural as the sparkler light, while also giving a little pop on the couple.

I also always talk to the couple BEFORE the exit to give them some pointers on how to get the best photos. Don’t run too fast, stop in the middle to kiss, and I also suggest they hold their own sparklers in their outer hands. Having the couple hold sparklers puts more light on them which is great, but I never force it if they don’t want to.

As they exit, I have my assistant hold the video light and guide me backwards so I don’t run into anything while taking photos. You don’t want your hair burnt so having someone else guide you helps prevent that. If you don’t have an assistant, you can always hold the video light yourself and take photos. Just be careful not to trip!

Apply these tips to your next sparkler exit and see how easy it is! Can’t wait for you to rock all your sparkler exits!

  1. Madalyn Yates

    February 6th, 2019 at 11:59 am

    This is so helpful, Hillary! I have been thinking about getting a Video light!

  2. hillarymuelleck@gmail.com

    February 7th, 2019 at 9:51 am

    You totally should! Love having it in a pinch or as additional lighting if needed :)

  3. Meg

    February 6th, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Super helpful, thank you!!!

  4. hillarymuelleck@gmail.com

    February 7th, 2019 at 9:52 am

    I’m so glad! I’ve been using this technique for over a year and love my sparkler exit photos so much more now!

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