Photo Tips - Smooth Water

Long Exposure of a Stream Besides a Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Have you ever wondered how photographers achieve that silky-smooth water effect in their images? Read on to find out how you can do it too...

This ethereal effect in photographs is created by the movement of the water. Instead of freezing the motion with a fast shutter speed, you want to slow down your shutter speed and allow the movement of the water to be shown in your image. The more movement there is in the water you're shooting, the easier it can be to create this effect - especially if you're shooting in bright natural light. 

First of all, you need to slow down your shutter and find a speed that allows time for the motion to be captured. As a result, more light will be let in to your camera and you'll likely find that your image will be too bright. We then need to compensate for this, firstly by reducing your ISO as low as possible - because we all know that this will not only darken the image, but also improve the overall quality of your photograph (always shoot with the lowest ISO possible, unless you are deliberating wanting to introduce noise into your image).

If you're image is still a little over-exposed then we can consider our aperture. A high aperture gives you a shallow depth of field, but also lets more light into the camera - whereas a low aperture results in a deeper depth of field and less light.

Therefore lowering your aperture (to a high numerical value / f-stop) can further darken your image - but be aware that this will change the depth of field though and you have to make the creative decision in regards to this and the style of image you're shooting for.

Finally, if your image is still too bright or you don't want to sacrifice that beautiful shallow focus by changing your f-stop, then you can consider using a neutral density (ND) filter. This is simply a dark piece of glass that fits to the end of your lens and reduces the amount of light that enters the camera. It means that you can slow your shutter speed way-down without overexposing your image and allowing time for plenty of movement in the water you're shooting.

It's important that your camera is set to manual focus mode and all focusing is done before fitting the filter to your camera. You won't be able to focus properly once the filter is attached, because it is so dark!

Hopefully these tips will help you to capture those beautiful long exposure images, with gorgeous silky-smooth rivers, streams and waterfalls in all of tour images. If you'd like to check out the ND Filters and other gear that I use, check out the links below:

- Hoya Pro ND Filter

- Manfrotto 190 XPRO Tripod

- Canon 5D MkIV

- Sigma 24-70mm

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