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Shooting Tips

Sparkler Wedding Exit Photo – How We Shot It

By Matthew Saville on April 18th 2013

The Photo

 JL-Talega-San-Clemente-Wedding-Photos-1051(Click here to view more images from this wedding!)

The Equipment and Settings

The Shooting Conditions

Wedding “grand exits” are always extremely hectic because they involve people running, throwing stuff, and/or sparks etc!  As a wedding photographer trying to properly document such a moment, you usually have two choices:  Play it safe with an on-camera flash, a low ISO and a decent shutter speed, so as to ensure you get sharp photos, OR… Crank your ISO, cut it close with your shutter speed, and see if you can hand-hold a 100% natural light shot!

The advantage of shooting weddings as a team with two photographers is that you get to cover both bases, of course!  Having shot many sparkler exits in the past, I knew I would probably need camera settings somewhere around f/1.8 and ISO 6400 if I was going to get an acceptable shutter speed, so all I did was wait for the action to start, and then fine tune my shutter speed based on my in-camera light meter as well as my blinking highlight warning on my LCD.

The Post-Processing

For this image, I did some more testing of our SLR Lounge Preset System in Lightroom 5 Beta, as well as Bridge CS6. (We have just converted our highly acclaimed SLR Lounge Preset System to Adobe Camera Raw Presets; click HERE to read the announcement!)

As I always encourage folks to do, I tried my best to get my exposure and WB right in-camera.  It would be silly to claim that I nail my exposures every time in a crazy situation such as this, however I got lucky and this shot had a great exposure even though others were severely under-exposed.  (Thus is the risk when shooting a sparkler exit without flash!)

Anyways, since I got the exposure and White Balance pretty close, all I did was use the SLR Lounge Preset for “Soft Portrait” and then bump down my exposure by 1/3 stop, drop my blacks down a “shift-click”, and then warm up my white balance just a tiny bit to avoid the image looking too neutral and to enhance the moody feel.  Done!  I also did a quick B&W conversion using one of our warm vintage SLR Lounge Presets:


Side Note: thus far, I have only had a couple minor freezes while using Lightroom 5 Beta!  Next, I am going to try and get my hands on some Nikon D800 RAW images, we’ll see how that goes…

Take care, and happy clicking!
=Matthew Saville=

The SLR Lounge Preset System

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The SLR Lounge Preset System is designed to enable users to achieve virtually any look and effect within 3-5 simple clicks. From basic color correction, vintage fades, black & white effects, tilt-shift effects, faux HDR, retouching, detail enhancing, and so much more. The sky is the limit with what has been dubbed the most powerful and intuitive preset system available. Click the link above to learn more/purchase!  The SLR Lounge Preset System is now available for both Lightroom 4 and Adobe Camera Raw! (Bridge CS6)

You can also purchase the SLR Lounge Preset System as part of the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection.

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Good Tip.

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  2. Elizbeth Berget

    Just wanted to say thanks for sharing this! We just shot a sparkler wedding, and I had these settings in mind for the big exit. The images of their departure turned out great. It was really helpful to have a starting point, so I wasn’t rushing to adjust as they came out of the building. Thank you!

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  3. Wedding Day Sparklers

    As a wedding sparklers company, we are always looking for unique ideas to share with our customers. Your photography tips are very nicely written and we will certainly be referring our customers to your site. Not only do we sell to brides and wedding planners, but we also deal with lots of photographers too. Thanks again for the great tips and photos!

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  4. Paul Armes

    What distance were you away from the couple when this shot was taken?

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  5. Bosstography LLC

    This is a great image. I agree with Apollo that the color version is stronger than the b/w (but it’s still a strong image). And thanks for the explanation of the camera settings.

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  6. apollo

    In my opinion the color version works better, the colors are nice but not too vibrant .

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  7. Nicholas Gonzalez

    The D700 held up its high iso very well. Most importantly, you got the moment. Excellent image.

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  8. Jason Lee

    nice tip… with the on camera flash option.. I guess you fire straight at them with bare flash? No way my 7000’s are pulling off 6400

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