How to create the misty water effect in photography

Have you looked at a landscape photographer’s photo and wondered how they got the water coming down from a waterfall to look so misty? Or how did they get the ocean in a seascape photograph to look so smooth?

My guess is that if you are starting out in landscape photography its probably one of the first things you’ve tried to do. If you got it right the first time that’s great, if you didn’t then let me show you just how easy it can be to create the misty water effect.

There is every chance that if you are just starting out that you won’t have purchased yourself any filters as yet. Filters will make it easier for you to create the misty water effect but they aren’t essential, its just means you’ll have to get up a little earlier in the morning and stay out a little later in the evening.misty-water

So the first thing you’re going to need to do is to get up early in the morning to get your misty water shot, its pretty much impossible to do it during full daylight conditions unless you have the new breed of neutral density filters which are extremely dark. Even then I wouldn’t recommend shooting during full daylight as you just aren’t getting the best available light. You should be ready to start shooting your subject at least 30 minutes prior to sunrise or 30 minutes after sunset, you will also need to have your camera mounted on a tripod as you’ll need to keep your shutter open for quite a few seconds to create the misty water effect.

Once you are ready to go its probably easiest to set your camera onto aperture priority mode and use the lowest ISO setting that you possibly can. Set your aperture to a setting around F16 if you can. It goes without saying that your next step should be to focus on your chosen subject to make sure your photo will be as sharp as possible. You should also consider getting a remote shutter release and to use mirror lockup to make sure that your camera doesn’t shake while you are taking the photo. Now for the fun part, take the photo! If your shutter is open long enough you’ll see that you too have created the misty water effect that you have been after. How hard was that?

misty-water2

If you decide that landscape or seascape photography is something that you definitely want to continue doing then you should at some stage consider purchasing a few neutral density filters, preferably the darker the better. The darker a neutral density filter the longer you can shoot your subjects after the sun has risen or the earlier you can take a photo before the sunsets.

Over the years I have found from experience that the best shutter speeds for creating the misty water effect is anywhere between 1 to 4 seconds. Anything less than this and the water doesn’t have that silky smooth look and anything more than that flattens the water almost entirely and makes it look almost boring. Of course every scene is always different and you may need to hold your shutter open longer or for a shorter period depending on what you are trying to achieve. Now for my last tip, make sure that you focus on your subject before putting on your neutral density filter otherwise its almost impossible to focus.

Categories:

Jamie Paterson

Landscape and seascape photographer, Jamie Paterson, is based in Australia. He is always trying to capture those elusive perfect moments that nature shares with us and loves to share his knowledge to enhance others photographic abilities. Before seascape photography, and landscape photography, Jamie started out as […]

Topic Filter: Commercial / Landscape / Portrait / Stock / What's Hot

Related Tutorials

Interviews

Martin Lawrence

After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]

Read More

Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]

Read More

Gary Hart

Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.

Read More

Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz

Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]

Read More

What's Hot

How to Photograph Buildings

Architectural photography is a very rewarding subject. However, it does take practise and experimentation to get right. If you’ve a hankering to try architectural photography these four tips will prove useful… Choose your lens wisely The closer you are to a building, the more likely […]

Read More

Color Correction: How to Set Custom White Balance in DSLR Camera

Watch this photography tutorial video to learn the art of color correction and setting custom white balance. Color is a visual property of perception. Camera chip interprets the light that passes through the lens in a similar way as our brain interprets the light passing […]

Click to Watch

Understanding Your Camera’s Lightmeter

The lightmeter in your digital camera is astonishingly clever. The default mode is known as Evaluative (or Matrix). This mode breaks a scene up into chunks, each of which are measured independently. And then, after a microsecond of thought juggling such factors as where the […]

Read More