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4th of July Family Craft: Light Painting with Sparklers

Happy 4th of July!

If you love celebrating the 4th of July with sparklers, then I have a fun 4th of July family craft for you: light painting!

My kids LOVE the 4th of July! They love going to carnivals and watching the fireworks. Another activity they look forward to every year is sparklers. We usually buy a big bulk of sparklers at one of our local stores, like Walmart, and light the sparklers after our cookout. 

Last year, my family and I tried light painting using sparklers and we had a lot of fun! If you’re a photography enthusiast, then you are probably already familiar with light painting. For those of you who do not know what light painting means, it is really easy to learn.


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Travis and Zhen (age 3 at the time) light painting with sparklers.


What is Light Painting in Photography?

Light painting in photography is a technique where the photographer uses long-exposure to capture moving light. Sometimes you can make objects or words from the moving light. (See our examples in the photographs below.) You can use many different types of light forms for light painting, such as a flashlight, glow stick, or candles. For the sake of this tutorial, we used sparklers.

“Light painting is an imaging technique that uses a moving light source to add light to an under-illuminated subject while taking a long-exposure photograph. A scene or object can be brought to life by painting with a beam of light!” —“What is Light Painting?” Wunderlich, Bruce. Digital Photography School.


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Michala (age 14 at the time) enjoyed making spirals with her sparklers.


4th of july family craft



  • DSLR Camera

    I used my Nikon D3100 DSLR camera (see image below). A point-and-shoot camera can also be used for light painting.


  • Tripod

The tripod I use is a SUNPAK tripod. It works very well for light painting with sparklers.



  • Flashlight

You don’t need a big, fancy flashlight for this project. A simple flashlight will work just fine.




  • Ideas for images you’d like to create.

Think of an image or word you would like to create for your light painting photograph before you begin.


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Light painting using 4th of July sparklers is a fun activity you can do with your family.


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X marks the spot!



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Directions: Light Painting Using 4th of July Sparklers

1. I put my Nikon DSLR camera on the tripod and adjusted my settings to 100 ISO, f-stop 8.0, and the shutter speed at 10 seconds.

2. I also set my camera to manual so I could manually focus on the subjects. Since the photos would be taken in the dark, autofocus would not detect the subject and therefore be able to fully focus on it.

3. I used my flashlight to help with manually focusing on the subject. For instance, when I needed to focus my camera, I would shine the flashlight on the subject.

4. I put the camera on a 2 second time limit to reduce shaking from my hands. A shutter remote also works for this.

5. Next, each person decided what image he/she would create before lighting the sparklers. We also practiced the motion of how to move the sparklers before lighting the sparklers and taking the photograph.

6. Last, each person lit the sparkler and then I pressed the shutter button on my camera to take the photograph. The person who was light painting with the sparkler continued their movements until the picture was captured. (I would tell my family when to begin and when the picture was taken.)


And that’s it! It was a pretty easy photography activity, and it was a lot of fun, too. Of course, you can experiment with your camera settings to find other ways of capturing the images you want.

For instance, you may want to try it with a flash or adjust your camera settings to “night scene”. Find what works best for you and the desired image you are trying to create. There are so many creative and fun ways you can “paint” with sparklers!

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Making fun images with sparklers.







What are your thoughts?