Late this past summer, Macbeth Studio was invited to provide a photo booth at The Dinner Party Project's 2-year anniversary party (our booth was sponsored by Yelp Orlando).  The venue was a gorgeous event space on West Church Street, with a ton of natural light. 

 Processed with VSCO with f2 preset Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

The venue had this great wooden wall already in place, the TDPP team provided the plants/balloons, and we set up our gear for shooting and live-posting.

Dana Marie Roquemore, the owner and operator of TDPP, asked us if we could use some sparklers in our photos. This adds a whole lot of fun for the party-goers, and also a whole lot of complexity for the photographers.

So of course we said yes, and that we'd make it work.

All that natural light in the venue presented a problem, so we waited until after the sun set to break out the sparklers. Then we got to control all the variables, which studio photographers love. The trick is to keep the ambient light to an absolute minimum, so motion-blur isn't too much of a problem. 

The strobe fires, freezing the faces and background, then the shutter stays open (in the dark) for as long as needed to capture the fire-trails. A tripod keeps everything still during the long exposure.

Once we got the camera settings dialed in (see bottom of post for tech details), it was a matter of giving each group a quick how-to lesson on sparkler photography, which we did with mixed results, as you will see.

The ground rules we explained to each group were as follows:

  • Hold all your sparklers together, touching at the tip, so we can get them all lighted at the same time (these were the small ones that only burn for about 30 seconds, or long enough for about 2 photos).
  • Once your sparklers are lit, get into position, and I'll give you a countdown to the start of the shot. The strobe will fire, and that's how you will look for the photo (so smile at the beginning).
  • After the strobe fires, you'll have 5 seconds to draw in the air, which we will count down. At this point, you don't have to keep smiling, as only the sparkler is registering on the sensor.

  • Don't put the sparkler between your face and the camera, or you will be blocked by a shower of sparks.
  • Keep the sparkler moving, or you'll get a white-hot dot
  • If you want to write words in the air, remember that you have to write in reverse, so think about how the letters would look in a mirror.
Don't put the sparklers in front of your face, unless you want to remain anonymous.

Don't put the sparklers in front of your face, unless you want to remain anonymous.

Timing counts... If you're going to write "MOM," you need to plan enough time for all the M's. Fortunately, MOM reads the same way in the mirror.

Timing counts... If you're going to write "MOM," you need to plan enough time for all the M's. Fortunately, MOM reads the same way in the mirror.

It's easy to get carried away... 

It's easy to get carried away... 

"We want to make a triangle."

"We want to make a triangle."

Again, don't put the sparklers between your face and the camera.

Again, don't put the sparklers between your face and the camera.

It's difficult to stress this enough.

It's difficult to stress this enough.

It's ok to move them around a little... just not in front of your face.

It's ok to move them around a little... just not in front of your face.

Writing backwards in the air is hard, even when the letters look the same both ways. 

Writing backwards in the air is hard, even when the letters look the same both ways. 

It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you.

It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you.

Bonus points for penmanship.

Bonus points for penmanship.

Let us know how you think we — and our subjects — did, and if we can help you with your holiday party shenanigans.

Learn more about our bookable hand-painted and live-posted photo booths here: macbethstudio.com/book-a-booth

TECH DETAILS:  Canon 5DIII, Canon 24-105 f/4, 50mm, 5 seconds at f/16, ISO 400, strobe fires on first shutter curtain open.

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