How To Shoot A Stunning Sparkler Exit

Sparkler exits are my favorite exits to shoot. I remember shooting my first one and being so nervous about capturing the moment. I’ve shot them in many different ways over the years (with & without flash). I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips on getting that stunning shot!

Franklin Tennessee Wedding Photographer

The first place to start is by educating your bride & groom about their exit. Before I was a wedding photographer, I didn’t realize that there are longer sparklers that burn slower that are made specifically for this kind of exit. I would highly recommend you mention this to your clients because if they get the sparklers that you can find at a fireworks stand (think the ones you burned on the 4th of July as a child), you will have a very bright, fast exit. Here’s a link on Amazon to find wedding exit specific sparklers.

Another thing I like to mention to my bride & groom is that even though you want the exit to be a true exit, you may want to think about doing a faux exit so that way you can have more guests send them off before the crowd starts to thin. Grandma and Grandpa may not want to stay until 10 pm, so a faux exit earlier in the night will let them participate, then go home while you and your friends go back in and continue dancing. Be sure to chat with the wedding coordinator during the reception to see if you do need to make a call to move the exit up to a faux exit too.

Franklin Tennessee Wedding Photographer

Always test your settings with a few snaps before you start the exit. This is when a second comes super hand because they can stand in to make sure you have the lighting set correctly. Once you’re ready to go, let the coordinator know to have everyone line up. During this time I will give the bride & groom some quick instructions to walk slowly, take it in and stop and kiss in the middle before running into their car. I’ll sometimes have to remind them to stop & kiss because they get all caught up in the excitement.

Franklin Tennessee Wedding Photographer

When I started shooting sparkler exits, I got really lucky and was able to shoot them without a flash. I say I was lucky because the venues had quite a bit of ambient lighting so I would just crank my ISO up and lower my aperture while not paying attention to my shutter speed. This is how NOT to shoot a perfect exit. {My first ever sparkler exit is below, shot without a flash and I LUCKED into this one. All my settings had me set up for an epic fail, but the photo angels were on my side that day}

After educating myself, I now use two flashes (or speedlites) during the exit. Typically I’ll have the hubs (or a second shooter), running behind the couple (crouched down) with the flash on a small light stand while having a flash on my camera controlling both flashes. This way I’ll get that lovely backlighting. If I’m by myself for the exit, I’ll just set the light stand and flash where the couple starts to get a similar look.

Franklin Tennessee Wedding Photographer

Here’s the nitty-gritty when it comes to settings that I use (keep in mind there are different ways, this is just what works for me). I base my settings on wanting my shutter speed to be at 1/125-1/200, with my aperture around 2.0 – 2.8. Depending on the ambient lighting I will set my ISO anywhere between 800 – 5000 (which 5000 would be for a really dark location). Typically I’m at about 3200. I’d rather have a higher ISO and keep my flash power low so that the image has a more natural light feel. I will set the flash I put on my camera at Master ETTL and the one on the light stand at Slave ETTL so that my on camera one can control the settings. I will take the power all the way down and test it, increasing the power as needed until I find that sweet spot.

Franklin Tennessee Wedding Photographer

As for the equipment I’m using, I have used a Canon 5D Mark III or Canon 5D Mark IV (both are great at low light situations). I like using my 35mm 1.4L lens instead of my (baby) 50mm 1.2L lens so that I can have a wider shot that will let me have more guests in the images. I have a Canon 600EX II RT speedlite that I will put on my camera and a Yongnuo YN600EX-RT II speedlite that I will put on the light stand. If you’re looking for an affordable flash that isn’t the investment that a Canon one is, the Yongnuo is great. It is very similar to the Canon model and the will talk to each other so you won’t need any other triggers.  (As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from this kind of purchase).

Franklin Tennessee Wedding Photographer

Once the shots are finished and the wedding is over, I will edit a majority of the exit images with my classic black & white preset. Personally, the sparker exit just pops in black & white, but I will edit a few in color for the clients. I have a sparkler preset that pull back the saturation of the yellows and oranges out of the image so the sparkle looks more white or champagne than orange.

Franklin Tennessee Wedding Photographer


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February 13, 2019



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