Challenges with Fire and Motion

Sparklers at a wedding


Sparklers are one of those things that are incredibly difficult to photograph well. The problem is finding the right balance of shutter speed. Too fast and the sparkler looks like just a pinpoint of light. Too slow and everything becomes too blurry to be recognizable. On top of that, it requires a fair amount of choreography. You have to consider how the final image is going to look, and then give all the participants tasks to do while you photograph them, and then realize that you will only have a minute or two of burning sparklers to actually get everything to come together.
It wouldn’t be that challenging at a model shoot when people are used to taking direction, and you can bark out instructions on the fly for everyone to follow. But when you are dealing with guests, couples, and time restraints at a real wedding, everything gets much more complicated. The first restraint is time. Wedding guests don’t want to spend 20 minutes prepping for the perfect image, and the couple certainly does not want to be away from their guests for that long. In practice, shots must be designed to be fast. If it takes more than five minutes to make a photo, you are wasting time. Second, expectations need to be reasonable. Originally the idea was to have the bridal party spell out the word, “Love” behind the couple. The problem there, is that you have to get four people (who have probably been partying for an hour) to simultaneously write four different letters and do it backwards so it appears forward in the camera….
Instead, we needed to create something a little more manageable, so I had the idea for the above image. The bridal party was already dancing, so I figured we should go with that. Since it is really hard to get everyone to stand still long enough for a photo like this without blurring, I just went with it. All I really needed was the couple to be sharp. I encouraged everyone else to dance around them with the sparklers, while the two of them posed in a way they could hold for several seconds without moving.
The result was an abstract image that not only looks fun, but the people in it had fun making it. And it only took them away from the party for a couple of minutes.