How To Take The Perfect Photo At Light Shows Around The World

By Carmarlena Murdaca

How To Take The Perfect Photo At Light Shows Around The World

With beautiful images of Vivid Sydney filling our social media feeds, it’s important to understand just how to get the perfect shot. We sat down with Canon Collective Ambassador, Jenn Cooper, to talk through tips and tricks for that postcard-perfect picture. 

What do you enjoy photographing the most at Vivid?

The light – not the installations necessarily but the way their light transforms a city I’ve shot many time before. When it rained last year that was the most exciting time for me to shoot – the backlit raindrops across the harbour was unbelievably breathtaking!

Do you have any ‘off the beaten track’ spots that you go to during Vivid?

Yes, I like to get a bird’s eye view on the festival. Either from the viewing platforms of tall buildings (local buildings around CQ that have a balcony/platform/observation decks) or the Cahill express way you can get a really unique perspective when you get off the beaten track.

How to get a truly unique perspective – if you follow the crowd you’ll get all the shots they will get too. A better tip is to go where there are less people, this may not be at the harbour itself.

How do you currently see people taking photographs at Vivid?

I see a lot of people taking pictures on iPads or their smartphones – then looking disappointed when they don’t turn out right. My advice to Vivid-goers; please take your camera out of the bag and leave the iPad at home! Use a camera because you’ll get better quality images. If you don’t own a camera, Canon have a range of products for people to hire from powerful SLR’s like the 80D to smaller lightweight devices like the M6.

What’s your top tip for first time Vivid-goers attempting to shoot on a camera?

Capture the dramatic colour and movement nice and tight, get in close or use the zoom on your lens to crop out any distractions in the foreground or background. Pay attention to your frame and only shoot what you what in the picture. Try a few different composition until you’re happy. If the subject isn’t moving try moving your camera mid-exposure to get a unique image.

To make for easy shooting off the Auto mode, is there a golden rule of settings that can help people shoot in low light?

This depends on what you’re shooting and whether you have a tripod. A good place to start is set the camera to TV mode with auto ISO then experiment with the shutter speed to get the best shot. I like the long exposures at 25 sec capturing the light trails of the boats as they pass through the harbour. Or a faster shutter speed for taking group pictures, like 1/60sec is good.

Have your friends and family in front of the light work, try introducing flash on low setting (when on TV mode) to illuminate your subject but keeping the artwork illuminated.

In low light conditions, people not photography savvy tend to turn their flash on instinctively, which could make or break your shot. So, go with the flash or leave it in the bag?

Depends on the shot, I’ve never been a huge advocate for a flash myself but some people prefer it. If you’re photographing people in front of vivid lights, YES turn the flash on – but if you’re photographing the vivid lights in the distance – NO flash!


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