If you’re looking for a great Bonfire Night or New Year’s Eve photo idea, or simply struggling to find creative photography ideas to keep you busy on dark nights, we’ve got the perfect thing for you. Sparklers allow you to create golden light trails and shapes, and they’re cheap to buy and easy to use.
You’ll need a tripod to allow for a long enough shutter speed for this project. You’ll also need an assistant to create sparkler shapes and words for you. Make sure everyone is wearing gloves and have a bucket of water on hand for used-up sparklers.
You’ll need to shoot in Manual so that you have complete control over your settings, and you’ll find that it’s easiest to focus manually on your assistant first and ask them to stay in the same place while they draw sparkler creations for you.
How to make light trails using sparklers
01 Find your settings
In Manual, turn off flash, then pick an aperture of f/8. You’ll need a low ISO, such as ISO200, to compensate for the long shutter speed – we started off with five seconds. When you’re ready, ask your assistant to slowly trace shapes in front of them. Hearts, circles and stars all look great.
02 Words and symbols
When you’ve got some simple shapes in the bag, increase your shutter speed to ten or 20 seconds and get your assistant to try some words. They’ll need to write backwards for the words to read correctly, but you can cheat and flip images horizontally in Photoshop if they’re struggling.
03 Include a person
If you want to include a ghostly version of your friend as well as their sparkler creations in your picture, simply switch to a wider f-stop, such as f/3.5. They’ll need to keep their face as still as possible for the entire exposure, though, or they’ll end up being a blur.
Night photography: 9 essential steps for beginners
Bulb mode: how to get pro-quality shots in low light
12 common errors of night photography (and how to solve them)
Night photography exposure guide: free cheat sheet