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Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Comprehensive Guide to Water Photography

Water is part of our daily lives and is one of the most fundamental natural elements essential to human life. Hence, water is a cherished part of human society, and we naturally are appealed to it's nearly spiritual properties. Being photographed in it's many forms, water is a critical part of photography because it's everywhere in the natural and man-made world. So how do you make your snapshot of a waterfall, current, or water droplet become a visual statement?

First you must understand that images of water usually comes in two forms: one that depicts movement through a "milky" motion blur and one that freezes the fluids motion at a given moment, so it looks like shards of smashed glass. The difference is the blur the eye sees present in the water. In going about a water shot, you must pose the question of what emotions you're trying to evoke. I think the spur of the moment feeling that fast shutter speeds capture (that is without a motion blur) create energy. On the other hand, the silky properties of a long exposure evokes a tranquil and meditative feeling. The trick to making your water images stand out is controlling and manipulating those emotions in a way you personally see fit.

Here's some of my simple tips-

Moving Water
-Make sure you've made a deliberate choice of the amount of blur you hope to capture in your shot (below are some exposure ideas for two approaches). 
 -Don't paint an image that is solely exclusive to water. Capturing a secondary subject (such as a person) will help better pass off emotions to your viewer.
 -Don't forget the importance of composition. Finding unique and "extreme" perspectives make for more visually interesting photographs because they offer something away from the norm.
-Generally, the sun is a problem when photographing water. Look for shaded areas (but remember having an image that is half shadows and half sunlight has negative factors because it distracts away from the subject).
-Add some scale. Providing a scale for your landscape images add context to your shots. Scales add a wow-factor to landscapes, by impressing your viewer with the size of your subject.
-Look for interesting textures, color and odd movements because they act as alluring components to the image. 

Still Water-
-When photographing still water, carry around a polarizing filter to help make colors in your images pop. Polarizing filters reduce reflections off of objects and in return enhance the saturation of objects colors. 
-Remember to capture the bluest of waters you need some sun in the sky to reflect off of the surface.
-Look for forms of reflections. The stiller and calmer the waters are the better the mirror images you can catch. Try to capture the two symmetrical objects perfectly aligned or consider what I call "half-reflections" (an image of water that only shows the reflected image, not the "actual" element). 
-Don't forget the importance of other elements and distinguish the roles they play in your images. 

Some quick guidelines for your exposures:
Milky motion blur= 1/4 of a second or longer

Frozen moment= 1/125 of a second or shorter
Macro water droplet images= 1/400 of a second or shorter

Images are copyright Peter Guttman.

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Chase Guttman is a talented and passionate, award-winning photographer having shot everything from landscapes to wildlife to portraits and events all around the world. Chase Guttman is also an affordable NYC assignment photographer, ready to fulfill your photographic wishes with his distinct style and attention to detail. He also runs this popular photography tips and guide blog, with weekly insights into photography that helps everyone from amateurs to pros better their photographic skill. Visit us at our website:

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