You booked the client. You know, the dream one?
You’re stoked about their location, their vibe, their look, but then they come to you and ask about doing a sparkler exit.
“Oh, yes! I love sparklers!” (this is you). “I can absolutely rock those wedding sparkler photos for you!”
And now you’re here.
Hey, this is part of learning, right? Sometimes you just have to figure it out on the go! But we can’t have you faking it and then not making it on the wedding day!
So let’s spill the tea on sparklers so you can get past the stress and nail that sparkler send-off like the gorgeous wedding photographer queen (or king) you are.
Before anything, you have to educate your client. If you succeed without talking to your client, it was a fluke, and you can’t expect it to happen again.
You must set expectations and guidelines, especially when working with fire(!!!).
Here’s what you’re going to have to lay down:
Choose the Big Sparklers
Did you know there was more than one size of wedding sparkler? You need to make sure your client is picking up the 36-inch sparklers.
These big boys will burn longer and brighter, and that’s going to make your job easier.
Keep Everyone Safe
Technically these don’t count as fireworks, but c’mon. You and I both know what they are.
It’s essential that your couple is taking care of the safety of themselves, their guests, and you. Make sure they talk to the venue, figure out protocol, and good grief get a bucket of water ready.
Just in case, ya know?
Take Things Slow
This is crucial, friend. You need to ensure that your client walks slooooooowly through the sparkler exit.
You’re working in low light with rowdy guests; let’s not make things any harder by including a couple of speed racers.
Your couple’s instinct will be to run through the exit, so let them know ahead of time to take it easy. Have them walk, and encourage them to strike a few poses while they’re at it.
Do the ol’ walk, kiss, walk, dip, action. The guests will love it.
Keep It Real or Go Faux?
Did you know you could ask for a faux exit? Does your client know they can ask for a faux exit?
Let them know it’s a thing.
A faux exit is fabulous for many reasons…
Do they want to party ’till dawn, but you’re only contracted until 9? Faux exit.
Do they want all their guests to be a part of their sparkler exit, but Great Aunt Mimi wants to head out after dessert? Faux exit.
There are plenty of other reasons to consider an exit that’s not actually an exit. If they’re open to having something a little bit more staged, this could be a great idea.
Brief the Guests
Please don’t just hand out a bunch of sparklers to a group of people who may or may not have consumed way too much alcohol.
Make sure someone is talking to the guests. They need to know how far apart they need to stand to be safe. They also need to know where to stand and not light the sparkler until everyone is ready.
There’s always going to be that one guy who lights the sparkler right after it’s handed to them (we’re looking at you, Uncle Drew). But if most of the guests know what to do, you’ll have a better exit.
Check Venue Sparkler Protocol
If they don’t allow it, you just can’t do it. And that’s that.
Before you go through the hassle of preparing for the sparkler send-off, have your couple make sure that they can actually do it!
The Nitty Gritty – Lighting and Settings
Now, let’s get into what you need to prepare for as the wedding sparklers are blazing.
There are a few different ways you can try to tackle the wedding sparkler send-off, and it’s all about lighting.
Sparklers don’t give off a ton of light, so this one can be a toss-up depending on the ambient lighting.
To get the wedding sparkler photos your client is drooling over, there can’t be a ton of ambient light. That means it’ll be challenging to use the natural light around you.
If you can make sure there is some light but that it’s not overpowering the sparklers, then you’re golden.
Here’s what you should be thinking about:
- Adjust your ISO to the light from the sparklers and get your shutter speed going as fast as possible without compromising light too much.
- Grab some test shots with your assistant or a picture-happy guest, or simply adjust as the sparklers are lit.
- Some general rules: no slower than 1/125, no wider than 1.6, and no higher than 3200. If you can’t hit that, you might want to think about some flash power.
- When in doubt, push up your ISO, but watch out for less-than-ideal graininess.
If the sparkler light isn’t cutting it, then you’ll have to think about adding in extra light.
On-camera flash can work, but please do not point the flash directly at the couple without diffusing it. It will flatten the shot.
Add your external flash to your camera’s hot shoe, adjust to a lower ISO, and shoot for a moderate shutter speed.
Either test with an assistant or start shooting as soon as the sparklers light up. That way you have time to adjust.
Off-camera lighting is ideal, but don’t try it unless you’ve practiced it.
You could try this with constant lighting or strobe lights. Continuous lighting would be easier to use, but it may wash out the photo.
Strobe lights are ideal, especially when backlit, but it is trickier. You’ll need more equipment like a remote flash trigger and a flash stand, and you’ll have to know how to use it.
Get your equipment and start practicing now if you’re into this option.
The thing about being a wedding photographer is you usually only get one shot to capture the moment.
However, sparkler wedding photos don’t always have to be like that. Talk to your couple, and if they’re down to do a few runs, then have at it!
Now go rock those photos like you told your clients you would.