water photo of a girl by Chris Hardy on Unsplash

A Beginner’s Guide to Water Photography: Camera Settings | 5 Ideas | 6 Tips

August 22, 2022

Water photography can be a fun and challenging genre of photography. There are many things to consider when photographing water, such as the lighting, the angle, and the movement of the water. This article will discuss some tips for photographers who want to start taking pictures of water. We will also provide some ideas for shooting different types of water scenes and setting up your camera for optimal results.

What is Water Photography?

Water photography is a type of photography that focuses on capturing images of water in all its forms. This can include above and below water shots and photographs of people engaged in water-based activities such as swimming, surfing, sailing, or fishing. Water photography can be challenging and rewarding, as it requires a good understanding of composition and light. Since water can reflect and distort light in interesting ways, you can use it to create unique and evocative images.

Camera Settings for Water Photography

If you're looking to take some stunning water photography, there are a few camera settings you'll need to keep in mind.


A good rule for water photography is to start with an ISO of 100 and then increase the ISO if necessary. A low ISO setting results in a small aperture, resulting in a big depth of field.


Your aperture will vary depending on your lens; however, working with a small aperture for water photography will work best. Use larger numbers to achieve a narrower aperture, letting in less light.

Shutter Speed

When it comes to the shutter speed of water photography, choose a shutter speed of a quarter to 5 seconds. If the water is still rough, you can increase the shutter speed length from a quarter to 2 seconds. If you feel it can be smoother, you can try a shutter speed of 3 seconds.

water photo

Photo by Jordan Donaldson _ @jordi.d on Unsplash

When you plan to use a long shutter speed of like 5 seconds, you will have to go back to your aperture and try to close it to bring less light, giving you the proper exposure. Ensure always to find a shutter speed of your liking.

Water Photography Ideas

One of the things that makes water photography so interesting is the vast number of possible subjects. Whether you're shooting a still pond or a rushing river, there are endless possibilities for unique and beautiful shots. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

1. Use Long Exposures

This technique will blur the water, creating a soft and dreamlike effect. The key to success is using a tripod and a shutter release cable to avoid any camera shake. You'll also need to select a small aperture and a slow shutter speed, typically between one and five seconds. Experimentation is key, so don't be afraid to experiment with different settings until you find the perfect combination. When done correctly, long exposures can produce stunning results that are sure to impress your friends and family.

2. Freezing Objects

If you want to take still-life photos with an interesting twist, freezing your object in ice is one way. You'll be able to see what's inside even if there isn't good lighting, and the transparency will create a creative effect that not many photographers can pull off easily enough.

You can use a light source such as the spotlight or strobe to backlight your object. This works well for many objects, but things you'd find in nature that have an interesting frozen look would be perfect - icicles and ice waterfalls stand out against their surroundings when photographed this way.

3. Making a Splash With Water Photography

splash water photo

Photo by Lanju Fotografie on Unsplash

One of the best ways to add excitement to your water photography is by using a splash. You can do this with various objects, but one of the easiest is using a small dropper. Fill the dropper with water and then drop it into your scene. You'll need to experiment with different shutter speeds to get the perfect effect. Faster shutter speeds will freeze the water droplets in mid-air, while slower shutter speeds will result in a more blurred effect.

4. Reflections

Reflections add a sense of depth and dimension to a photo and can also create a sense of calm or serenity. To photograph reflections, look for still water surfaces such as lakes or ponds. The best shooting time is early morning or evening when the light is softer. Position yourself, so the reflection is symmetrical, and use a tripod if possible to keep the camera steady. Experiment with different angles and compositions to capture the mood you are trying to convey in your photo.

5. Underwater Photography

Underwater photography can be both fun and challenging. If you're shooting in a pool or other controlled environment, you'll need to use a waterproof camera housing. If you're shooting in the ocean, you'll need to be careful of the waves and currents. It's also important to be aware of your surroundings, as you don't want to startle any sea creatures.

underwater photo of a girl holding a clock

Photo by Jordan Donaldson _ @jordi.d on Unsplash

When shooting underwater, it's important to use a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the scene as possible. A flash can add light and color to your photos, but be sure not to use it too close to your subject, as this can startle them.

Tips for Great Water Photos

With a little bit of know-how, water photography can be a breeze. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Get in the water. This may seem like a no-brainer, but the best way to get great water pictures is to get in the water yourself. Not only will you get closer to your subject, but you'll also be able to capture more of the action.

2. Use a polarizing filter. A polarizing filter can do wonders for your water pictures. It will reduce glare and reflections, and it will also make the colors appear more saturated.

water photo of waves

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

3. Look for twirling foam near rivers or the ocean. Spinning foam is created when air bubbles get caught in the water's eddies and currents. It makes for a beautiful and unique photo subject.

4. Look for leading lines. Leading lines are any line that leads the eye into the photo. They can help create a sense of depth and movement in your water pictures.

5. Experiment with long exposures. Long exposures can create some stunning effects in water photography. They can make the water look smooth and silky, or they can make it look like a raging river.

6. Reflected symmetry.This is another great composition technique to use in water photography. It involves finding a subject that is reflected symmetrically in the water.


Water photography can be a fun and challenging way to capture the beauty of our natural surroundings. By following these tips and experimenting with different settings, you should be able to start capturing some amazing water pictures yourself. So get out there and enjoy the wonders of nature – we can't wait to see your shots.

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