Behind the Sparkler

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A couple of weeks ago I put together a blog post highlighting the fact I made it to two years of self-employment. To help celebrate, I created a graphic that was a flaming sparkler on top of a cupcake.

I spent a lot of time mentally planning and then shooting various concepts before making the final image. A few friends read the post and let me know they thought the sparkler image was a stock photo at first. They didn’t know that I had made it. Because of those statements, I decided to put together a small process post on how the image was created.

The first trial was trying to shoot a regular sparkler without a flash. The images were too dark and my shutter speed was too quick. The spark trails were more like blobs. Once I got the light looking a little better, I then played with the composition of the image and if the cupcake wrapper should be on or off.

The tinfoil was mostly to avoid anything catching on fire, but it also helped to bounce the light.

The chocolate cupcake got lost in the background, so I switched to a yellow cupcake. I also realized leaving the lights on in the kitchen were making my background less than full black. So I shut those off, too.

The cupcakes were left in the fridge. After sitting out for awhile, they began to get some condensation on the frosting. I took a Q-Tip and dabbed a little off.

Once I was happy with my camera settings, the light, cupcake, and the composition, I was ready to make the final image. I lit the final sparkler and began taking a lot of photos. When the sparkler was finally out, I quickly scrolled through everything that was shot.

My mind immediately gravitated toward the photos with the largest sparks; the images that looked the most explosive. When I brought them into Photoshop, I realized they were failures.

The whole concept was to highlight the number “2” and that had to be visible. I went back through and selected the final image (the one before the animated GIF). The sparks were good and the number was visible. That was what I wanted.

I also gathered a few mobile photos that I took during the shoot. You can see shoot details if you’re curious of my setup, and you can also see that my intern was very helpful during the project…

Overall, I was fairly pleased with how everything went and the final results. It was fun!