Freeze Water for Awesome Wet Action Shots

by Kristen Duke ; Updated October 17, 2017

Have you ever wanted to photograph water, but you aren’t quite sure how to do it? You can capture all sorts of water effects in photos, such as freezing a slow trickle of water or freezing individual droplets. Today, I’m going to share how to achieve both of those effects.

We’ll be using a Digital SLR. You should know how to adjust the shutter speed while the camera is set on manual. If you aren’t quite sure how to use manual settings, I’ve got some tips.

Capturing the Constant Flow of Water

The first way to capture water is by slowing down your shutter speed. This enables you to see the constant flow of the water — such as in the waterfall shot below. Using a tripod helps as well since your shutter speed will be slow enough that it will be hard to keep everything else in focus.

In this first shot, I could tell I hadn’t set my camera slow enough. How did I know? You can still see droplets.

ISO 100 f4.5 ss 1/25

I was shooting at 1/25 and knew I had to slow it down even more. In this next photo, I zoomed out a bit, but you can see the flow of the water is captured as I wanted….soft and pretty.

ISO 100 f 32 shutter speed 1.6

I shot this second photo at a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds. A slow shutter means when you press your shutter button, the shutter stays open longer and catches more movement. It also catches significantly more light, so I reduced the aperture to f32 to accommodate.

What’s the right combination to use for shots like this? It’s often just a matter of experimenting until you see something you like.

Freeze Water Droplets

You can also speed up the shutter to freeze droplets of water. I love the look of seeing water droplets frozen in time. The first shot is in the sun, so my shutter was cranked up to 1/1600 with an aperture of 2.8.

When I moved into the shade, I didn’t need to have my shutter as high to compensate for the darker background, and could capture the frozen water droplets at 1/640.

Switch it up from time to time to see whether you want water captured in the slow blur as in the first example or quickly frozen in time as in the second examples. Practice using both methods!

Photo credit: Kristen Duke