Cultural and creative life

4 tips to nail that SYDNYE fireworks shot

Learn how to master this tricky night-time shot with the help of SYDNYE’s official photographers.

The midnight fireworks are seen from Mrs Macquarie's Chair during New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney. Image: Mick Tsikas
NYE midnight fireworks

We spoke to the official Sydney New Year's Eve 2021 photographers to get their best tips on how to shoot fireworks.

This year Matt Lambley, Daniel Tran, Henry Li, Morris McLennan and Keith McInnes will be stationed around the city to capture the best shots at midnight.

While these tips are for those using DSLR or mirrorless cameras, you can apply these tips to phone photography too.

1. Location, location, location

If there’s one thing all our photographers agree on, it’s that location is crucial to a good shot. Henry Li recommends scouting your vantage point and picturing what your composition will be well in advance.

Location is everything, so make sure to get to your designated location early! – Matt Lambley.

There’s nothing worse than having other people blocking your view so try to find a spot in front of the crowds.

2. Bring a tripod

The best firework photos are long exposures so you can capture the sparks flying through the air. Make sure your camera is well supported with a tripod so that your images don’t turn out blurry. Remember to bring your base plate so you can attach your camera to the tripod.

Flat lay of camera equipment. Image: Abril Felman/City of Sydney
Flat lay of camera equipment. Image: Abril Felman/City of Sydney

3. Play around with your camera settings

You’ll want to spend some time figuring how which settings to use before New Year’s Eve.

Make sure your camera is set to manual mode. There are 3 things you need to know when shooting in manual: shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

‘Shutter speed’ means how long your camera’s shutter is open for. ‘Aperture’ is the opening in your lens.

A wide-open aperture like f/2.8 lets a lot of light in and also has a narrow depth of field, meaning not everything is in focus. This is great for portrait photography where your subject is in focus but the background is blurry.

An aperture of f/16 is a much smaller hole, letting in less light and has a wider depth of field. This is perfect for landscape photography where you want everything in focus.

You also have ISO, which respond to light. A higher ISO like 1600 will mean your photo is brighter than one at 200. Try to keep your ISO as low as you can so you don’t introduce digital noise.

The firework shows are only a very short window of opportunity, so you don’t want to be ‘practising’ during the main event! – Morris McLennan

Our photographers recommend trying a 2-second exposure with ISO at 300 and an aperture of f/8 so you don’t miss focus. Remember to have fun and play around with the settings. Why not try a 5-second exposure on f/16?

Daniel Tran also recommends having your camera set to manual focus. This way you won’t miss out on the perfect shot because your camera isn’t trying to focus every time you press the shutter.

4. Practise makes perfect

Practise shooting at night so you can learn how to balance shutter speed, ISO and aperture. It’ll give you time to work out which settings and composition you like best.

When starting out you will get more misses than hits but with time you will start to get better at timing it right. – Keith McInnes

Don’t forget to tag your photos with #SYDNYE and share your photos online with us and other budding photographers.

For all the latest information about the night, head to

Published 24 December 2021