Sparkler Light Portrait Photography

A little Gymnast and some Fireworks

This time of year in New Zealand is the time when fireworks are freely available for the public to purchase for a very limited period. Before this tradition completely vanishes, I wanted to make use of some fireworks as a background in a portrait photography session. I knew what effect I was looking for and I had worked out what equipment I would need. However, the location was a bit of a problem because you are not really able to let fireworks off in a public place and I would also be using some bulky lighting equipment, so I ended up photographing on location at the model’s own house.

The little gymnast was all ready to go and I had the lights set up when it began to rain. This is less than ideal and you don’t want your model and your equipment to get wet, so we had to cover the gear and wait a while. The rain ended up coming and going which did complicate the photography. On the plus side, it did provide some interesting reflections on the deck that we were photographing on and ensured that we didn’t set fire to anything.

Kay_fireworksIt took a bit of time for us to get the technique quite right with various attempts at using the fireworks and figuring out the placement, and the best way to take the photos. I would set off the initial exposure with the strobes, and then my assistants would run into the background with the fireworks. We finally had a good system going and we managed to get some great photos in between the rain showers. It was loads of fun and the little gymnast ended up having a go with some fireworks of her own as she also wanted to join in the fun.


I am really pleased that such a simple idea turned out with such unusual but professional results. Sometimes the greatest photographs come from a good idea that you might have. The fun part is that you can work out the best way to make that idea come to life. Remember to try and keep your setup simple and if you don’t quite get it right at first, keep adjusting your settings and your setup until you nail it… or you could commission Professional Photos to do it for you, because bringing ideas to life, is my specialty.
Good luck and keep photographing!

Important Stuff

Fireworks are extremely dangerous to use and should be treated with care and respect at all times. Only adults should attempt something like this, and it is important that your model is some distance away from any fireworks. You can make them appear closer by using a zoom lens. If you zoom in on a scene, you will automatically compress the distance between objects and give the illusion that they are close. A 70-200mm lens is ideal for this sort of work.

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