If you’re an outdoors-oriented person, odds are you’ll be drawn to water. But water has some characteristics to it that make it very difficult to capture on film. But if you follow these tips, you’ll come away with some epic shots that can help show people back home just what an awesome life you live.
These tips are based on the assumption that you have at least some control over your camera settings. Some of the tips relate to SLR cameras only, but for the most part you point-and-shoot camera owners will also find this article helpful.
1. CLOUDS CAN BE YOUR FRIEND
Everyone loves shots of a bluebird sky, but this can make for some tricky shooting conditions, particularly in the middle of the day. Depending on what you are shooting, a cloudy day can actually be beneficial for not having such extreme light and dark conditions. This is especially true when you have low-light conditions that you want to show as well as the water — for example, a lake/pond within a forest.
2. GET A POLARIZER FILTER
Most people have likely heard of polarized sunglasses, but not many people know that they came from a camera filter made by the fine folks at Polaroid. This filter blocks out unwanted glare, allowing you to see through the water that can highlight the world beneath the surface. If you do not have an SLR, you can easily polarize your shot by placing your polarized sunglasses in front of your point-and-shoot lens. Just make sure that your particular shades do not distort the image — but you will be surprised just how well the right shot works.
If water is only partially in the frame, your camera’s meter might not realize it’s there, which can lead to an over-exposed shot with too many highlights making the water look white. If this happens, try manually underexposing the shot. Most cameras have a plus/minus button for this, otherwise consult your manual for how to do it — all but the most basic cameras will have this capability. If the image looks dark upon viewing, keep in mind that even basic photo editing software will allow you to brighten the image. This is especially true for RAW files, and if your camera shoots in this format it is well worth learning how to edit them — it will dramatically open up your photography world for the better.
4. SHUTTER SPEED
Since water is so dynamic, playing with the shutter speed can make for some interesting creative shots. Most cameras have a shutter-priority setting (usually labeled “TV”). Try slow shots for that dreamy, whispy look. Or try the other end of the spectrum and get an ultra-fast shutter speed for a cool effect, especially when the water is splashing or moving fast. Use your personal creativity to get a unique shot.
Above all else, remember to have fun! Hopefully these tips will help you take better photos near water. Any other questions? Just ask!