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How to photograph water to get the misty effect

You can achieve very different images by controlling how long you have your shutter open for. Shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions of a second. A fast shutter speed (eg 1/1000th of a second) can freeze motion while a slow shutter speed (eg 10 seconds) will blur anything that’s moving.

A common scenario for using a fast shutter speed to freeze motion is this photo below of a seagull I photographed in Brighton in the UK. The shutter speed I used was 1/2500th of a second which has made everything look sharp.

A bird photographed with a fast shutter speed

A popular scenario where a slow shutter speed is used is when a photographer wants to blur moving water. In the photo below I had the camera on a tripod and photographed the waterfall at a shutter speed of 1 second.

A waterfall photographed with a slow shutter speed

Here's a video of me photographing a beach with a slow shutter speed, here are the basics:

  1. Put your camera on a tripod so the camera doesn't move
  2. Set your shutter speed to something slow eg 10 seconds (experiment with different speeds to see which you like the best)
  3. Depending how bright the scene is, you may need an ND (neutral density) filter which will darken the scene like sunglasses allowing you to achieve a correct exposure.
  4. Everything that moves while the shutter is open will be blurred and everything that stays still will be sharp
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  • Hi Davinder, I agree that you wouldn’t want to use it every time, it’s just another tool you’re able to use if you feel that it would add to the style of photo you’re creating. Some photos would look a lot better if fast moving subjects were frozen still and others might look nicer if fast moving subjects had some motion blur.

    Ben Williams
  • Honestly the misty water effect is so over used, I would go as far as saying boring. Everyone is doing it.
    Personal choice I suppose.

    Davinder Basi

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