How To Get Silky Smooth Water Photography

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How to Get Silky Smooth Water In Your Photos

| 4 min read

I’m certain you’ve seen those photos of streams or waterfalls where all the h2o is a silky smooth blur. Information technology’s a surprisingly piece of cake effect to pull off—and it looks crawly. Here’due south how.

Note, this is a somewhat advanced technique and requires that you know how to employ your camera fully. If you’re just starting, check out our beginners guide to photography to get up to speed.

How This Technique Works

This technique relies on two things: a stable camera and a dull shutter speed. With a stable camera, yous can use a shutter speed of anywhere between 1/10th of a 2nd and upwards of 30 seconds. Everything solid in your photo, like the rocks and landscape, will be exposed just as if you took a photograph for 1/1000th of a second. Only the moving stuff—mainly the h2o—will mistiness.

To get a stable camera, you need a tripod. Information technology’due south that simple. You lot’ll never exist able to keep your photographic camera still for long enough by hand. Over at sister site, Review Geek, I’ve written about the best tripods. Our favorite, the Vanguard Alta Pro, is $120. It’south worth every penny.

We’ll look at getting a dull shutter speed in a moment, just get-go, let’s talk about what I hateful by a slow shutter speed. For fast moving water, you’ll start to go a adept blur effectually ane/10th of a second. At i 2nd, it will be silky smoothen.

1/10th of a second shutter speed

one/tenth of a 2nd. Notice the waves starting to blur and look good.
Harry Guinness

For slower moving water like streams—or to blur more than one wave together—you lot’ll want to use a longer shutter speed. Your camera probably maxes out at 30 seconds, so that’due south your upper limit without an intervalometer. I normally aim for a shutter speed of between 15 and 30 seconds when I can.

30 second shutter speed

30 seconds. Multiple waves while the shutter was open gave it a very smooth look.
Harry Guinness

Getting a Tedious Shutter Speed

Now, getting the slow shutter speed is the scrap that requires some thought. Yous can’t just set your shutter speed to 30 seconds and expect to have a good photo. In most cases, it’ll be massively overexposed.

The first step is to use a narrow discontinuity. Depending on the light levels, somewhere between f/11 and f/16 is ideal. Whatever narrower, and you’re likely to run across a drop in paradigm quality. Over at How-To Geek, we’ve got a deeper guide to selecting the right aperture for different situations.

Next, crank your ISO downwardly to 100—or any your photographic camera’s base ISO is. Over again, on How-To Geek nosotros’ve got a full guide on choosing the right ISO to utilise.

If you’re shooting in low light, like at dawn or dusk, or in a shadowy wood, this is probably enough to become your shutter speed in the 5-15 second range. Depending on the effect yous’re going for, this might work.

ND filter

I used an ND filter here to get my shutter speed to thirty seconds on a bright solar day.
Harry Guinness

On the other manus, if you’re shooting in vivid daylight, your shutter speed is still probably measured in fractions of a 2nd. This is where neutral density filters come in. Neutral density filters are pieces of dark glass that go in front of your lens. They block lite from striking your sensor, allowing y’all to use a slower shutter speed than you otherwise could. ND filters are ordinarily measured in stops: a 3-terminate filter blocks three stops of calorie-free, so you can apply a shutter speed that’s three stops slower. For example, with a 3-stop ND filter, you can go from one/10th of a second to around 1 2nd or from i second to 8 seconds. ND filters come up in dissimilar values upwardly to most 10-stops. We’ve got a more detailed explanation of ND filters over on How-To Geek.

If you can just afford to buy one ND filter, I’d recommend getting a nine-stop or 10-stop filter. You lot tin can always increase your ISO if you want to utilize a slightly faster shutter speed. It’s best to buy i from your local camera shop—they can suggest you on what’s right for yous.

Now, you lot can put information technology all together:

  • Prepare your camera upward on a tripod. Frame your shot and put it in Aperture Priority mode.
  • Set your aperture to f/16 and ISO to 100. Compose your image and take a test shot to come across what shutter speed your camera’southward lite meter recommends.
  • If it’s slow enough, switch to Manual way, fine-tune your composition and exposure, and shoot away.
  • If it’due south non tiresome plenty, add an ND filter and try once again. Swap to Transmission manner to fine tune your exposure: don’t be afraid to open up the aperture to f/xi or increase the ISO to get a adept shot.

Dealing With Glare

One trouble you’ll encounter shooting h2o scenes is that h2o can look really shiny in photos.

Harry Guinness

This is considering the water is reflecting polarized lite. To cut down on this outcome, yous need to employ another filter: a polarizer. It works but like polarized sunglasses, blocking some of the polarized light reducing reflections. Here’south the aforementioned paradigm as in a higher place, but in this shot, I used a polarizer.

Harry Guinness

Crazy deviation, right? For more than on using a polarizer, bank check out our guide right hither on LifeSavvy.

As you lot can probably guess, I dear the look of silky shine water in my mural images. Now you lot know how to get the effect, too. For some recommendations on the gear I mentioned in this article, check out the best mural photography gear for your camera on Review Geek.


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