how to write with sparklers.

a sparkler photography tutorial: how to write with sparklers + catch it on camera!
{please excuse any grumpy or weird faces...I should work on my pleasant resting face!}

When we made our big announcement a few weeks ago, I promised a post on writing with sparklers. I thought it was only appropriate to share those tips in the week leading up to the Fourth of July. In typical {av} fashion, I did a fair amount of research to prep for our first attempt at sparkler writing. These five tutorials gave me the most insight into the final product: The College Prepster | A Little SussySociety Bride | Pixels & Co.This is Life? 

-This is one activity you cannot do alone. Unless you've mastered the art of using a self-timer in the dark, you are better off have a partner-in-crime for this adventure.
-You are best served buying a few packs of "Morning Glory" sparklers. These are larger scale sparklers with a longer burn time. Depending on your state's firework laws, you may have to do some digging to find this type of sparkler. Thankfully, I was able to find them in the dollar bins at my local Wal-Mart and Target. I've heard rumors about three-minute sparklers, but I was never able to find those myself.
-While you're at it, you should also purchase a real "long" lighter--not matches. Sparklers can spark {crazy, right?}, so having something which can give you some distance from the sparkler itself is key.
-Maximize the visibility of your message by wearing dark clothing from head to toe {preferably long sleeves and pants}. Lighter clothing will show up in your photos and distract from the sparklers.
-Borrow or buy a tripod. With the longer exposure, you will need your camera to stay perfectly steady in order to capture the sparklers. If you don't have access to a tripod, scout a few spots during the day where you can confidently place your camera. You wouldn't want any unfortunate camera mishaps in the dark.
-Try to stay away from streetlights and any other large light sources. This may seem obvious, but it is worth saying. It may take some time to get your bearings with your camera in the dark, but practice a bit inside before you head out into the darkness.
-As an aside, you may want to bring a vase or glass full of water outside. You can put any used sparklers inside to prevent any residual fires.

-Morning Glory Sparklers
-Large lighter
-Tripod {or sturdy surface}
-DSLR camera
-Dark clothing

-Using our DSLR camera, we shot all of our photos in manual mode. {I have a Nikon D5000.} I liked Nicole's post for technical information, though I used a different shutter speed method.
-You can gain more control with your shutter by setting your camera to "bulb" mode. It allows you to press down to "start" the photo and let up to "finish" it. This sounds really unscientific, but I promise it gives you the most control of your sparkler writing. {cv} would press down on the shutter button, say "go", then I would start writing. When I would finish the letter, he'd let up on the shutter button. We could often get multiple letters done with one lit sparkler.
-It goes without saying that you can include multiple people in the letter drawing process for a fun group photo.
-Many tutorials mention the difficulty of writing backwards. I have to give {cv} credit here: he realized it would be so much easier to write as if you were doing so on paper. {aka the normal way}. By flipping the photo, the word {or letter} appears correctly on your screen. If you don't have photo editing software on your computer, don't worry. After a quick trial, this website seems to work--just choose the left-right option. {If you have a smart phone, the Afterlight app will also allow you to flip the photo after you send it to yourself via email.}
-Have some patience: some letters are definitely harder than others. I struggled with J, R, and Y especially. Even though they seem easy, they tripped me up! 

This may seem like an intense process, but I can assure you that your first attempt at sparkler writing will be the toughest. We were able to take the photos for this post rather quickly, compared to our baby announcement photo shoot. As a point of reference, this post included 26 letters and a heart and the announcement had only three letters. It does get easier!

Apologies for the novel of a post, but I wanted to arm you with everything you need to take great sparkler photos this 4th of July--and beyond. If you've tried to take sparkler photos and have any tips, please feel free to add them below. Every little tip counts! Happy almost July 4th! xoxo {av}


  1. Ooh! I like the idea of writing normally, then flipping! That makes so much sense! Maybe I'll give it a go this 4th of July!

  2. Perfect for the 4th! Sparklers are just so much fun!


  3. AND I HAVE MY FOURTH OF JULY PROJECT!! haha. I ran around and showed this to everyone in my home to get them excited. lol. This is a great post! Love it! Thanks so much!


  4. Written with sparkles looks so beautiful! I'll definitely give it a try with some Easy letters :)
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  5. Excellent tutorial, tips and roundup of articles! Thanks so much for the post! Also...a super big congratulations of your baby news!

  6. Dude this post is like a party! Love the tutorial! Hope you have been feeling alright! So excited for this new journey for you!

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  8. I love this post. I definitely want to try this out sometime soon!

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  9. I got my morning glory sparklers and I'm ready to try this out! Thanks for the tips, girl! :)

  10. Oh I've always wanted to know!! So awesome!! Can't wait to try it.