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Seeing Sparks with Stacy Smith Studios

📷: Stacy Smith Studios

You’ve seen sparkler photography all over Instagram and photography blogs over the past year or so, but do you know the process behind the hype?  We caught up with the talented Stacy Smith of Stacy Smith Studios to get her to shed a little light (hah) on the trend and also share some of her favorite snaps.


When did you first see/hear about sparkler photography? 

Between magazines, social media and other photography forums, sparkler photography emerged and quickly became become very popular. Brides went nuts over it, so we knew we needed to lean this new technique! We’re always looking for ways to set ourselves apart. We love trying new, challenging tricks and going above and beyond for our couples. Every wedding, Shawn and I literally ask ourselves, “What can we do today that we’ve never done before? How can we blow their minds?” We are known for climbing trees, walking out into the water, standing on a roof or doing WHATEVER IT TAKES to get our shot! So that’s what made us want to learn.

How does it work?

Successful sparkler photography is really all about your camera settings. You set your camera to capture the movement of the sparklers in slow motion.  Ever see those pictures of beams of light streaming down the highway that are actually vehicles in movement? Well it’s the same idea! A tripod should always be used to create stability and sharpness in your photos and the subjects have to stay as still as possible.  If you’re taking a photo of someone jumping up in the air and you want it to be sharp and crisp you will greatly increase your shutter speed. Most likely you are taking that image at 1/400th or 1/500th of a second. It’s the opposite for sparkler photography. You want to slow down the opening and closing of the shutter to anywhere from 10-25 sec. What this means is from the second you press the button to take the picture till the camera actually takes it can be 10 to 25 seconds long. During that time, you run around with the sparklers making whatever designs the couple desires. That definitely takes practice! Shawn led us as a team to learn. We got together in a dark field and just practiced with everyone. We would spell out words, dates, make different shapes and play around with the camera settings until we got exactly what we wanted.

Do you have personal favorite “style” (i.e. spelling out words vs. creating a cool design)?

As I mentioned before we really love to challenge ourselves so I have to admit that the most intricate designs are probably our favorite! Spelling out the word “love”  perfectly the first time had us all jumping up and down in excitement! Because it’s a mirror image, you have to spell it backwards and it took us a little while to get that down. A lot of people photoshop sparkler images together, but ours are all real!

On August 18th, we had a bride and groom who are big time Harry Potter fans. The bride had a request: She wanted to make it look like they were shooting wands at one another. So, I put together a plan. This would require the couple to each hold a sparkler and then the photographer to run back and forth in between them to create the look. It wasn’t very difficult to do, I was just unsure at first having never done it before. But, I am proud to say we nailed it on the first shot! We also love creating sparkler images after it’s rained because the reflection on the ground can be quite stunning!

Why do you think it’s become so popular? Why do you think couples should consider incorporating it into their own engagement sessions / wedding photos?

People love new things, bottom line! Everyone wants what nobody else has and I really think that’s what started the excitement over sparkler photography. Someone saw something they had never seen before and they had to have it. Sparkler photography requires the couple to step out of the reception once the sun’s gone down to do these images and it does take 15 minutes or so as we like to do each shot multiple times to ensure it is perfect. If you are willing to take the time to do that, we highly recommend it because it will give you some truly one-of-a-kind images. Even though it is popular, there are still a lot of people who don’t know how to do it! For our next feat, we plan to have a bridal party work with us for one of these sparkler shots, and we will incorporate gel-colored lights to create something truly amazing! So be on the lookout!

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