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Water Photography Tips: How to Get That Soft Misty Effect

The secret to getting that smooth effect in water photography lies in long exposure times.

What Gear Do You Need

  • Tripod – holding the camera steady for long exposures is essential.
  • Camera - keep in mind that you will have to fit filters or holders onto the lens and be able to expose manually.
  • Remote Release Shutter to release the shutter without shaking the camera
  • CPL filter (circular polarising filter) to remove reflections from non-metallic surfaces and saturate some colours.
  • ND Filters – the most important accessory for long exposure photography. Equally important is to have filters of excellent quality. This will reduce the chances for diffraction or colour-casting.
    Solid ND filters (slot-in or screw-in) are described by the amount of light they cut out For example
    ___ 4 stops (ND16) for long exposures in lower light at sunset
    ___ 6 Stops (ND64) for long exposures on an overcast day
    ___ 10 Stops (ND1000) for long exposures during the day
  • Check out our ND filters


Variable ND filters are a single solid ND filter that rotates allowing you to “dial-in” the number of stops of light to block out – check out our SYRP filters.


Graduated ND filters slot into a holder and are used to help balance bright skies in landscape photography, these filters are available in both hard and soft graduations. Check out our Benro long exposure kit (pictured).

Composition

  • Find the river, waterfall, waves, etc that you wish to photograph.
  • Try to find the most interesting point of view of your scene
  • Look at the light – it’s direction, how much it can or cannot illuminate the scene you have chosen, how the shadows will fall and how they will influence the scene.
  • Pick up your camera and start framing some of the scenes you have found. Find the one that works best
  • Set up your sturdy tripod and camera and adjust the camera settings. To achieve the silky and blurry effect of the water set your camera to Manual Exposure Mode.
  • Start with a shutter speed of at least ½ of a second, aperture between f/11 and f/16, and ISO as low as possible
  • Focus and take some test shots.

Add a Polarising filter (CPL)

  • A CPL will remove any type of reflection – from the water as well as shine from the tree leaves and grass.
  • Focus then rotate the polariser to remove any reflections.
  • Note -  the polarising filter removes almost 1 stop of light from your lens.

Add a light blocking filter

  • If you still need a slower shutter speed to soften the water then add an ND filter. They are designed to reduce the light without adding a colour cast (hence “neutral”)
  • Add them last as the camera will no longer be able to focus once the light is reduced

Capture the shot

  • Use the remote shutter release and capture your photo. Use the self timer if you don't have a remote shutter release.
  • Analyse your picture and adjust the exposure if needed

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