Water portraits. 7 tips to take to the field.


Water is all around us and a frequent subject for nature photographers. Since much of my photography is close to home that means I’m usually taking pictures of water, as the Cumberland Plateau and the southern Appalachians have abundant provisions of the wet stuff. I get asked all the time how I get the look that I do when I shoot, so I thought I would share a few tips.



  1. Use a tripod.. There is a reason this is number one.. I don’t care how steady you think you are hand holding your camera. At the shutters speeds you will be using, hand holding will make everything soft and fuzzy. ( stop that, Jim Hall. I know what your thinking and those “fuzzy” images are mean to be that way and are multiple exposures taken for a specific artistic purpose.. I’m sorry they make your head hurt).
  2. Use a slow shutter speed.. This will be anywhere from 1/4 second to much longer. Experiment and see what you’re getting when your review your images.
  3. Use a polarizer.. This serves multiple purposes.. It gives you a longer exposure (usually by 2 stops of light). It cuts reflections off the water so colors look richer and darker. It cuts reflections off leaves on plants surrounding the water. You don’t always absolutely need a polarizer when shooting water, but often enough to say almost always.. Play with the orientation of the polarizer while looking through the lens.
  4. Use a neutral density filter.. This will also slow down your exposure and give that soft silky feeling to running water. This filter you will need on brighter days when a polarizer alone won’t slow your shutter speed enough.
  5. Use a cable release... With slower shutter speeds, this becomes more important. Using a self timer set to 2 seconds is a way to improvise if you forget, loose or have your batteries in cable release die. Using Mirror Lock Up is a good idea, as this helps eliminate the vibration for the mirror “slap” as it lifts out of the way to open the shutter.. I guess this is definitely one advantage of the Mirrorless cameras.
  6. Pick something that doesn’t move and let the water move around it… A rock, a tree, even a leaf underwater.BMC_20130309_D808975
  7. Look for small details and patterns..BMC_20111015_DSC0368

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