Pump Up Your ISO & Turn on Your Flash for Great Sparkler Photos

Sparkler Fun

We have one two more nights of the long Independence Day weekend. When the sun finally sets, break out your camera and sparklers for fun holiday shots. Since it will be very dark out, you will need to boost your ISO to avoid both camera shake and blur from subject movement. Try ISO 1600. For the photo here, I also added a flash on slow sync. This flash mode sends out a burst of light to freeze the subject but keeps the shutter open just a bit longer to capture the sparkler motion as well as some ambient light for an image with more depth. If you are unsure how to set your flash to slow sync mode, you can also try the automatic “nighttime” mode on your camera, denoted by a person + star or moon on the mode dial.

Fireworks Photos are a Blast!


Fireworks photos are easy to shoot if you have a great position and a stable tripod or surface for your camera (or a lens with image stabilization like my 18-270mm VC zoom). I set the camera to manual mode (off of the program or aperture priority shooting mode I usually use). I also set the camera to manual focus. Since the sky is dark, the camera cannot focus so you need to manually set the lens’ focus ring to infinity. Next, I boosted the ISO to 1000. And finally, I set the lens to my widest aperture (F/6.3) and a slow 1/15th of a second shutter speed. The slow shutter speed captures the streaks of the fireworks’ bursts nicely (but the slow shutter speed can lead to some blur if you are hand-holding or shooting without a tripod and cable release–did you know that even when your camera is on a tripod, the act of pressing the shutter release button can cause blur?). If you get too much blur, move your shutter speed to 1/30th of a second, but your streaks may not be as long. I did have a nice position on the patio of a beautiful bed and breakfast where a friend was staying (we were so pleased that she invited us all to watch with her!). There was a nice break in the trees that looked out over the LI Sound. While the fireworks we saw were not Macy’s quality, they were fun for the kids, we oohed and aahed, and I felt I got a few good shots to include in my scrapbook page for this year’s holiday. Perfect end to a Happy 4th of July Day! (270mm; ISO 1000; F/6.3; 1/15th sec.)