Photo Tip: Shooting Water

(Similar version published in Popular Photography, January 2007)





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In drinking, some like their water icy, some like it tepid. It's a matter of taste. In photography, moving water can be recorded with various appearances, depending on shutter speed. Some like it frozen in an instant of time, some like it blurred with a long exposure. There's no right or wrong; how you like your photographic water is also a matter of taste. You might like one of these three approaches.


Glass sculpture. Fast shutter speeds like 1/500" or 1/1000" will depict moving water as frozen solid. Splashes and droplets will hang suspended in air.


Minor blur. Intermediate shutter speeds like 1/15" or 1/30" give some motion blur to the water, but individual ripples and splashes are still discernible. You'll probably need a tripod or other camera support for shutter speeds this slow.


Silky smooth. Shutter speeds of 1/2" or longer will smear the water out to a smooth, cottony, smoky look. Shooting with a small aperture (for depth of field) on slow film in dim light often forces me into this shutter speed range, so it's a good thing I like the look! You'll definitely need a tripod to achieve this look in your water photography.


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Timothy Edberg / 6511 Homestake Dr. South / Bowie, MD / 20720
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