How to shoot water.
Water has no single shape, speed, or look. Because it’s a substance that can shift to fill any space, it’s not only about discovering different angles to shoot it from. It’s also about focusing on the specific characteristics of water in the moment. To shoot water, a photographer needs to be malleable, just like their subject matter.
Research location, lighting, and weather conditions to prepare for different water photography subjects. Landscape photographers who snap pictures of a winding river at sunrise need different gear than photographers who capture water droplets flying from the surf when a wave crests. If you need to get into the water to get the shot you want, this research will ensure you bring along the right tools.
Lighting at water photoshoots.
Direct sunlight can pose a problem for photographers, and that’s especially true if you’re taking pictures of water. Overhead sunlight may reflect off the water and cause glare. If you want to snap a sun-drenched ocean vista, skip midday and plan to shoot during sunrise or sunset, known as the golden hour. The soft lighting of golden hour illuminates a scene without causing any issues with reflected light. If you want to shoot a popular beach at golden hour, consider going at dawn.
But even with planning and research, you can’t control lighting, weather, or water conditions. Be prepared to change plans on the fly when the environment doesn’t cooperate. “You have to enjoy swimming, going out, and being in the water,” says photographer Giancarlo Beroldo. “There are so many days when you go out and get skunked.” Each day that doesn’t turn out right still offers an experience you can build on next time.
Set up your camera for water photography.
Water can move lightning fast or very slowly. The right settings for water photography will change depending on whether you’re photographing the ocean on a calm day or a cascading waterfall surrounded by countless water drops. Before you take pictures of water, decide what you want the final product to look like.
Landscape photos of water usually require a smaller aperture to get the deep depth of field that makes every feature in the photo, from a nearby rock to a distant cloud, look crisp and well defined.
For crystal-clear pictures of moving subjects like waves, waterskiers, or WaveRunners, you need to freeze motion. A fast shutter speed helps you get a good shot of that surfer just exiting the tube. With the shutter open for less time, you need your camera sensor to be more sensitive to the light it lets in. So try using a higher ISO to get a better exposure with fast shutter speed shots.
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