The Best Camera Gear and Settings for Capturing Vivid Sydney 2024

12 May 2024

2024 marks the return of the Vivid Sydney Festival, back for an exciting 14th time.

What is Vivid Sydney? The Vivid Sydney Festival is a fun and creative event with light installations, projections and live music performances; there's also a huge selection of food trucks, BBQ stands and more - you're sure to find a snack or meal that suits your tastes. 

For photography enthusiasts, the highlights will be attempting to take the best photographs of fireworks and light shows, as well as the inspiring drone show, which returns after making a popular debut in 2023.

Everything you need to know about Vivid, the biggest festival in Sydney

  • Where is the Vivid festival in Sydney? Sydney-siders and travellers to the harbour city will have the chance to catch Vivid at numerous popular and easy-to-reach locations. This includes Circular Quay, The Rocks, Royal Botanic Gardens, Darling Harbour, Walsh Bay, Sydney CBD and, of course, the Sydney Opera House.
  • What dates are Vivid Sydney 2024? Vivid runs for an exciting 23-day period, from May 24th to June 15th.
  • How much does Vivid Sydney cost? While some of the light and music shows are ticketed, most of Vivid's exceptional light shows can be enjoyed for free. These free shows give you the perfect opportunity to experience Vivid Sydney with Kids.
The Best Camera Gear and Settings for Capturing Vivid Sydney 2024The Best Camera Gear and Settings for Capturing Vivid Sydney 2024
  • What time is the Vivid light show? Check the main Vivid website for the exact times of specific events, but the free light displays run from 6-11 PM.

What is the best camera gear to capture Vivid Sydney?

The Best Camera Gear and Settings for Capturing Vivid Sydney 2024The Best Camera Gear and Settings for Capturing Vivid Sydney 2024

Making the most of the spectacular visions on show at Vivid from a photography sense is no mean feat. The dazzling light displays demand photographic equipment that is capable of translating their vibrancy into stunning images.

  • Mirrorless Camera: For optimal control and low-light performance, invest in a mirrorless camera. Look for models that offer manual shooting modes and excellent image quality, particularly at higher ISOs. This combination allows you to capture the intricate details of the light installations without compromising on sharpness.
  • Tripod: A sturdy tripod is important for maintaining camera stability during long exposures. Vivid Sydney thrives after sunset, so a tripod ensures crisp, blur-free images even at slower shutter speeds.
  • Remote Shutter Release: To minimise the potential for camera shake during long exposures, consider using a remote shutter release. This dedicated button eliminates the potential for unintentional movement while triggering the shutter. Alternatively, if your camera offers Wi-Fi connectivity, explore using a dedicated app on your smartphone for remote control.

What settings should I use to Photograph the fireworks and Light shows at Vivid?

As we mentioned, Vivid comes to life after dark, which presents quite a challenge for photographers – you need to act fast to catch the moments that take your eye, but as it is dark, you often need a longer exposure. Here are some key camera setting tips to get you started:

  • ISO: Begin with a moderate ISO of around 400 and adjust upwards as needed. As modern mirrorless cameras excel in low-light situations, don’t be afraid to push as high as ISO 1600 if this is what is necessary to get the best shot.
  • Aperture: For photography at night we usually recommend using wide aperture (low f-number) to maximize light intake. This gives you more freedom when selecting your shutter speed, meaning it doesn't have to be too slow to introduce motion blur, while maintaining a balanced exposure - remember how the exposure triangle works? It links aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. That said, for edge to edge sharpness a moderate aperture of around f5.6 is often required. Ultimately, the correct aperture you use will depend on the situation and your desired outcome.
The Best Camera Gear and Settings for Capturing Vivid Sydney 2024The Best Camera Gear and Settings for Capturing Vivid Sydney 2024
  • Shutter Speed: This setting plays a critical role in capturing the movement of light displays. There are various types of light displays at Vivid, which change at various tempos, so you will have to adjust your shutter speed depending on the situation. For projections, use a moderate shutter speed of around 1/30th or 1/15th of a second, which still lets in a good amount of light. If your images look too dark on your LCD screen, go slower. What shutter speed should you use for fireworks? Generally you want to use a slower shutter speed, such as a few seconds - to achieve this without overexposure you will lower your ISO and close your aperture accordingly.
  • RAW Format: Always shoot in RAW format. RAW files capture uncompressed image data, offering superior flexibility for adjustments during post-processing, ensuring you squeeze the most detail and vibrancy out of your Vivid Sydney captures.

Other tips for great Vivid Festival photography

The Best Camera Gear and Settings for Capturing Vivid Sydney 2024The Best Camera Gear and Settings for Capturing Vivid Sydney 2024
  • Forget about your camera flash - Our instinct tells us that dark conditions require flash but no flash is powerful enough to reach and illuminate a Vivid light display. Turn the flash off and use our recommended settings to capture the ambient light.
  • Pack spare batteries and memory cards - capturing the best photos of this event will require a great deal of trial and error. Make sure you don't run out of space or juice by packing a few spares.
  • Go to as many events as possible - lots of them are free, after all. Practice makes perfect, so the more times you try your hand, the better your results will be.
  • Consider a Vivid Photowalk - Want to achieve the best vantage points to photograph Vivid Sydney? Learn from the best and take a Sydney Nightscape Photowalk with Nikon. As well as access to some of the most jaw-dropping sites and locations, your expert guides can help you with tips on using your camera gear in specific situations. Book your ticket now for the 4th of June or 12th of June.

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