5 Tips For Photographing Moving Water

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All folks have seen those amazing silky cotton candy seaside scenes or milky white waterfalls falling down a rock face. They all look so professional and tough to shoot. Now, equipment may play a tiny part, but it’s actually simple to shoot moving water. The key is discovering the right water to shoot and mastering your technique.

waterfall over rocks

“White Clouds on the Waterfall” captured by Mitch Johanson (Click image to see more from Johanson)

There is an issue, in that these scenes can be tough to photograph well, because a few factors must be in place. But, after you have them right, happen to be on your way to great images. This is a fantastic challenge when you learn photography. So what needs to happen? Let’s have a look at some basic steps that will get it right.


1. Choose the right location.

The basic foundation for successful flowing water images, especially waterfalls, is selecting the best location for your shot. Waterfalls are notoriously challenging to access, since most times these are found in rugged terrain. Be careful when selecting your location. It’s much better to approach a waterfall from below than from above; choose a route down at the water. By watching the sunlight, you might find there is a perfect time for shooting.

moving water photography

“The Mists of Tea Tree Creek” captured by Jim Worrall (Click image to view more from Worrall)


2. Choose the right format.

Horizontal and vertical formats, also known as landscape and portrait, can both work effectively for seaside water shots. But, for waterfalls, normally it’s best to use vertical or portrait, because on most occasions there is certainly more height than breadth to the image.

waterfall photography

“Waterfall” captured by Ian (Click image to see more from Ian)

But anticipate to experiment with both orientations, while you never know which might result in a classic shot.


3. Choose the right shutter speed.

To produce the milky white or silky smooth water shot, you'll want to choose the right shutter speed carefully. The variance between 1/30 and 1/15 of the second may be the difference between a fantastic shot and merely a good shot. Here, an issue you’ll experience is too much light, which won’t let you use a slow enough shutter speed. It may necessitate using a ND gradient or even a polarizing filter to reduce the sunlight a little. You’ll should experiment a to find the right speed for the scene and lighting conditions.


4. Use a good tripod.

A tripod is essential for water shots, as you may need extended exposure times. This is due mainly to utilizing a small aperture to have maximum depth of field to maintain sharpness through the entire image. Coupled with this can be a remote or cabled shutter release to cut back camera shake or vibration.


5. Experiment with composition.

By this, I mean alter your viewpoint, angle, and distance in the waterfall. How much of the waterfall do you wish to include versus other functions that are near on the water (e.g. moss covered rocks, trees, and also other landscape features)? How close you can get towards the water as a result of dangerous obstacles or water spray is yet another factor you’ll must contend with. Once you have the composition you are happy with, be ready to refine it by zooming in or out slightly. A slight variation may improve a picture dramatically.

ocean photography

“Looking for Bright Future” captured by Mohamed Rafi (Click image to view more from Rafi)

Water photography is fun, but it’s also challenging. Be prepared to practice and try out locations before you find one which includes just the right conditions. Seaside water is much easier to shoot, but you’ll still get some amazing photos. Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner continues to be teaching photography for 25 years or so and has written three books on photography. He has produced 21 Steps to Perfect Photos; an application of learner-based training using outcomes based education.

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