Take better Vivid Sydney photo’s

Are you thinking of heading out to photograph Vivid Sydney? Maybe you have already tried and you were disappointed with your results. Here are my top tips to help you make the most of this funtastic festival and create images you’re proud to share!

1. Use a Tripod

The first thing you will need for sharp images is a Tripod. Using a tripod is an advantage for a few reasons. Firstly, you can use a slower shutter speed without blur (As long as your subject isn’t moving), you will always get a sharper image if you use a tripod. A tripod will also make you think about your composition and save you holding your camera (they can get heavy after a while) – you can read about my tripod HERE

2. Use a Remote Shutter Release

Using a remote for your shutter will stop you from knocking the camera, once it is all nice and steady on your tripod, use a shutter release to take your picture. I use a wireless one, but you can use any kind. If you do not have a shutter release you could use the self timer function of your camera, but you will have at least a 2 second delay from pressing the shutter to taking the picture and at Vivid, this will mean you will miss your shot. Check out my page on remotes

3. Increase ISO when needed

ISO relates to the sensitivity of your sensor. Some parts of Vivid Sydney is a fast moving light show, and unless you’re using a faster shutter speed the lights are going to blur (even though you’re using a tripod, as the lights move they will blur and everything else will remain sharp) – By increasing your ISO, your digital sensor becomes more sensitive to light, and will expose your image quicker, this means you can use a faster shutter speed. The Light Show they have on the Opera House this year is a classic example of when you would want to do this. Be careful though, some camera’s will create a lot of noise (grain in your picture) if you use too high an ISO. On my D800 I use ISO2500 without too much noise developing, and this means that I can get a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second at f2.8 (great for freezing motion on the Opera House) – If you’re taking a picture of the Harbour Bridge, these lights do not change as quick, so reduce your ISO and go for a longer shutter speed, this will result is less noise in your final image.

4. Use Manual

Using manual will mean you will have control over what the camera does. Just remember that if you want to freeze motion, you will need a faster shutter speed and your Aperture will need to be on the smallest number possible (for my lenses this is usually f2.8) – Check your histogram and if the image is underexposed, increase your ISO or reduce your shutter speed until you get a good exposure… if you reduce your shutter speed too far you will have trouble freezing motion, it is a balance between these three controls you will have to master! Practice using manual before you head out for your shoot. I have a lesson on exposure control here. If this is all mumbo jumbo, you should read it!

5. Try different things

Don’t be afraid to try different things, shooting on digital has made it easy for us to go crazy and shoot lots of frames… so try everything and anything, change settings, lenses, angles and compositions until you get what you’re after!

6. Shoot RAW

If your camera has the option to take photos in RAW format then this is what I suggest, at least then you can adjust the exposure etc when you get home if you need to!

7. Join my Workshop!

I usually run a workshop or two during Vivid to help people like you make the most of the festival! The lights can be tricky to capture and I run small group workshops showing you exactly what settings to use and some of the best spots to shoot from. CLICK HERE to check out my workshops page for more info

Today’s iCandy – Vivid Stars

I took this from right below where they’re projecting from, I set up on my tripod and aimed my lens through the fence and snapped away, I took over 100 images in 10 minutes, the Opera House is transformed continuously and I wanted to photograph every second! All the technical details for the image can be found below it… enjoy!

Stars of the Opera1183

8 Responses

  1. Great Art you produce Ben! I will definitely take up some of your suggestions. It should help my reference for Nocturne paintings

  2. Hi Ben,
    My daughter had tagged you in her Facebook, and I instantly fell in love with the Vivid images that you took. They are stunning. Great work.

    I took my Nikon D7000, tried it out on manual settings and had it ready at home and took some shots, all was working good. With the wireless remote, a 200mm Lens and set it on A. When I got there with my kids, set the camera & tripod, then the camera stopped working. I then finally got it going, but most of the shots were all blurred. When I saw you image of the Opera House a few minutes ago, I was amazed on the sharpness of your image/s.

    Please if you have some spare time, I would like you to tell me ‘where I went wrong? I would appreciate it so much. Thank you Ben.

    Kind Regards


    1. Hi Athanasia
      Can you tell me what the exif information is for your images? ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture please? (the settings you used to take these pictures) and I will see if I can help you.

      P.s. I have a free PhotoWALK on Saturday night too, I will be helping as many as I can get some great pics.

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