kara hendricks

Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Queen Creek, Phoenix, & Scottsdale, AZ


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This blog is full of tips, information and behind the scenes stories. I love serving my community with images that are true to the personality of the senior! So you get a peek at what tools I use to help my seniors and headshot clients feel comfortable so they get the outcome they want.

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How to Capture Fireworks and/or Sparklers in a Picture!

July 4, 2023

Misc. Tips & Information


The 4th of July is full of friends and family getting together to celebrate our country’s independence with BBQs, fireworks and sparklers. We love to dress up in our red, white and blue and try to make fun shapes or spell “July” with our sparklers.

You can capture these memories using either your DSLR camera on manual settings or even on your phone!


Step 1: The Set Up

As you’ll be using long shutter speeds or the Bulb mode if your camera has one, you’ll need to put your camera on a tripod as working without a support will just result in shake spoiling your shots. If you don’t have a tripod handy find a wall or some other level surface you can rest the camera on. If working in Bulb mode a remote / cable release will be handy as you need to lock the shutter open and even though you can hold the shutter button with your finger, shake can creep into your shot. If you’re not using Bulb Mode you could set the exposure going via your camera’s self-timer so you aren’t touching the camera when the exposure begins, reducing the chances of shake spoiling your shot. Set an aperture of around f/8 and an exposure time of 30secs should be long enough if you’re not using Bulb. 

Step 2: Position The Writer & Do A Trail Run 

As it’s dark the background isn’t too important but do make sure there’s no distracting lights that could end up looking like over-exposed blobs in your final image. The person writing the message needs to be face-on to the camera and instruct them to write the word(s) backwards so it appears the correct way in the photo. If they struggle to write backwards you could always flip the image after in Photoshop but make sure the person doesn’t have any slogans or tell tale pictures on their clothing or they will also be flipped in the final photo. 

Before hitting the shutter button it’s wise to do a trial run so you don’t waste sparklers and you can also check that you’ve set a wide enough focal length to capture all of the writing in the frame. If you’re not using Bulb mode it also gives you the opportunity to time how long the writing process takes so you can work out what exposure times you’ll need. 

Step 3: Focus

You need to focus on the person in front of the camera but as it’s dark, you may find the camera keeps searching. If this happens, use a torch to highlight the person and the camera should then be able to adjust. 

Step 4: Hit The Shutter Button

Once you’ve lit a sparkler you can start the exposure. Writing with an even flow will keep the trail smooth through the shot. If you want the writer to be visible, you’ll need to fire the flash just before the end of the writing process. 

Step 5: Check The Shot 

This can be a very hit and miss technique so do check your shots and have plenty of sparklers to-hand. If you can’t really see the trail you’ll need to either user a wider aperture or ask the person doing the writing to be a little slower. Do the opposite if it looks too bright and wide.

If you find writing is too tricky then you can always capture patterns and shapes drawn instead. 


  • Tripod (or just something stationary to place the phone on)
  • Slow Shutter Cam App (the best $1.00 you can spend besides a McDonald’s drink)


1.) Open the Slow Shutter Cam App and adjust the shutter speed to 15 seconds. You can play around with it depending on your light situation & preferences. The longer the shutter is left open, the more light it lets in.

2.) Place your phone on the tripod or make sure it is stationary so that the picture does not become blurry. Even if your friend can stand amazingly still, we assure you that placing the phone on something stationary is ideal.

3.) Take a few test shots to make sure the lighting, shutter speed, and sparklers are all in the shot. You will want the sparklers lit for this, so we suggest you have a few on hand.

Whatever method you use, have fun! Make sure you tag me on your photos! I would love to see them!

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