Learn How to Photograph Water and Create Stunning Photos

As I write this I am currently in Iceland doing plenty of photography and researching for some new photography ideas.

One thing that this amazing island has is water. Not just the surrounding sea but there are numerous lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, ice flows and geysers.

A question I’m often asked is “What is the best way on how to photograph water” and my answer is usually the same – “That all depends” I know that’s a vague answer but below is a better idea of what I mean.

Photography is very subjective and there is no one way on how to photograph water. At times you my want to capture the water to show the droplets and all it’s force but there may be time that you want to create something softer and peaceful and to do either of these you need to adjust you shutter speed.

What Shutter Speed should you use?

When we view something with our naked eye we see things at roughly 1/60th of a second. So the reason we can’t always see individual droplets and splashes of water is that the water is simply moving too quickly for our eyes and brain to register.

So to capture the droplets and splashes we will need to set the camera to a faster shutter speed than what we see with the naked eye. Equally if we want to create smooth flowing water then we will need to set our camera to a much slower shutter speed that out eyes can see.

Using a Fast Shutter Speed.

In the following photograph I have set the camera my camera to shutter speed priority and set the speed to 250th of a second. As you will see you can see the droplets and splashes of the water as it cascades down the fall.

How to Photograph Water

250th Second

 Using a Slow Shutter Speed

For the following photograph of the same subject I dropped the shutter speed down to 0.5th (half) of a second. In this photograph you will see the water looks more blurred and gives a different look to the photograph. With a slow shutter speed like this you need to use a tripod or have your camera set on a very steady surface.

How to Photograph Water

0.5th (half) Second

Very Slow Shutter Speeds

Look what happens when I go even slower. With the image below I’ve gone down to 2 seconds. Now the water looks really blurred and creates a really cool image

How to Photograph Water

A 2 second shutter speed

Going Even Slower Still.

This very early morning photo was taken with a shutter speed of 5 seconds. What I really like with this photos is that the water looks dead flat. Although the water was moving, while the shutter was open the water smooths out to give a very surreal look.

How to Photograph Water

5 Seconds

Special Note: If you decide to take very slow shutter speed photos on a bright day then you are likely to need to use a ND (Neutral Density) Filter which will help reduce the light coming into the camera so that image does not over expose.