Capturing Moving Water


If you want to make your composition more beautiful and graceful by exposing moving water silky and blur, slow shutter speed is the most effective technique. This technique is liked by many photographers including myself. From mountain streams to small rivers to great waterfalls and sea-sides, whenever you find moving water, your basic approach will be the same to capture it and turn your composition into a creative art. In an overcast day moving water shots give you more control because of soft light and no blinding highlights created by the sun reflecting on the water.



  • EQUIPMENT – A camera with manual exposure setting and an appropriate lens (Ideally a   digital SLR camera and a wide angle lens).
  • ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT REQUIRED – Tripod, Neutral Density (ND) Filter.
  • OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT – Remote Shutter Release, Microfiber Cleaning Cloth.


SECLECT A SLOW SHUTTER SPEED – The key technique to shoot moving water is to use a shutter speed that’s slow enough to blur the water and record a milky & silky smooth appearance but not too slow otherwise your composition will be overexposed and burn. This is actually a matter of trial and error; depending upon the light intensity of the scene. Usually one second exposure is a good starting point. The great thing about digital capturing is that we can check each shot when we click and according to that we can make adjustments until we get a perfect exposure. 



  • Because we are using a slow shutter speed always remember to mount your camera on a sturdy tripod to keep it nice and strong. Any movement can ruin your composition. It is a good idea to use remote shutter release so that you can click the shutter without touching the camera. Touching the camera involves risk of vibration that could lead to your images being ruined by shake. If you do not have a remote release you can also try to use the self timer feature to avoid shakes. Also use the mirror lock feature if you are using a DSLR because the moving mirror can also create shake in the image. We will soon explain how to make Track Sharp Images in another tutorial.
  • In an overcast weather, stopping your LENS down to F16 or F22 and setting your ISO as low as possible will allow you to find a shutter speed slow enough to blur the water. You can also try these setting, early in the morning or after sunset. Otherwise you have to use a Neutral Density (ND) filter to slow the shutter speed. ND filters are like sunglasses for your camera. Different types of ND filters are available in the market according to their capability of blocking light (f stops). For example with two stop ND filter you can make – ¼ second to become 1 second.
  • Because you are shooting water, before taking any shot check the lens or filter for water droplets. Wipe the water away with clean microfiber cloth, otherwise image quality will be bad. Also holding an umbrella over the camera can help to prevent any kind of water droplets falling into your lens or filter.
  • Always review your first shot. Always check your histogram back in your camera for better result (You Will Find details about How to Check Histogram in another tutorial). You can also try exposure bracketing. Try to spend more time to explore your location for best composition.
  • Take a few attempts to get the shutter speed just right so that no area of the moving water were overexposed. If you are unable to expose the entire water stream properly, you can use clone stamp tool in Photoshop to copy & paste water from different parts of the image over the overexposed image. You can also use mask layer for getting the same result, which I will explain in details in the Photoshop Layer Masking Tutorial.


Creative Commons LicenseThis work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Please contact us for permissions beyond the scope of this license or any other query.


Keywords: capturing moving water, long exposure, nd filter


(73 Posts)

Hi, I’m Avijit Bose from Kolkata -West Bengal India…. Thanks for stopping by my photo portfolio here. Who am I? A regular guy who really likes photography. I’m self taught and really enjoy seeing the work of other talented shooters. I am also a business man, a photo tour host. My photo passions include macro, landscape, nature and travel. Being able to create realities through photography brings me great joy and satisfaction.