What shutter speed should I use to get silky water in my waterfalls?

We have compiled a list of the TOP50 questions that we hear on our workshops. From gear, to settings, to composition, and shooting styles, we have decided to post three questions and answers a week till we get through them all.

We hope they answer some of the questions that you may have. Here is todays question.

Question: What shutter speed should I use to get silky water in my waterfalls?

Answer: It is probably easiest to set your camera on aperture priority mode and use the lowest ISO setting on your camera. Set your aperture to a setting to f/16. 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 using mirror lockup to make sure that your camera doesn’t shake. Now, 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. If it didn’t work out, try another setting, and again until you get the desired result.

Over the years, I have found that the best shutter speed 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 that you want to achieve, and anything more than that flattens the water almost entirely and makes it look like a white blob.

Of course, every scene and every situation is different. You may need to hold your shutter open longer or shorter depending on what you’re trying to achieve.

One last thought in case you are using ND filters: make sure that you focus on your subject before putting on your stronger neutral density filters, otherwise it’s almost impossible to focus. I focus, then switch the camera to manual focus, then put on the filter.

If you have any further comments, please add them to the comments section below. The more feedback and ideas the better.

Thanks for reading,



Kevin A Pepper

Kevin is a photographer and educator based in Waterloo, Ontario. His first love is photographing nature, regardless of the season or weather condition; the Ontario landscape and its wildlife are his inspiration. But you will also see other styles of photography in his portfolio. From street photography to urban exploration of abandoned buildings and architecture, he loves to capture it all with his camera for his corporate clients and his growing personal portfolio. Kevin’s images have been featured in Canadian Nature Photographer, PHOTONews Canada, Photo Technique Magazine, The London Free Press, The Weather Network, and National Geographic Online. His diverse client list includes the City of Cambridge, Olympus, GORE Mutual, TVO, and African Lion Safari. Kevin also operates “Northof49 Photography”, a company launched in 2012 dedicated to teaching amateur photographers through International and Canadian-based workshops. In the coming year, Kevin will be leading workshops in Iceland, Mongolia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Provence, and numerous destinations across Canada. Website: www.kevinpepperphotography.com