How to use shutter speed to make water more appealing and exciting by capturing movement.

Have you ever been to an event with lots of action and wondered how to capture the excitement, energy, and movement of it all? Showing movement or action can be a challenge in photography, but once you know the tricks of the trade, you can create some really unique and interesting photos!

That’s exactly what I wanted to do while on vacation with the family in Africa! We stopped at a wave-pool to watch these surfers having the time of their lives, riding a standing-wave (a wave that is not moving forwards) and pushing the limits.

This gave me the perfect opportunity to capture the thrill of the moment.

So, how did I do this? Watch now to find out!

In this episode:

(1:03) – Yes! You CAN Freeze Time
(2:20) – Moving Pictures
(3:10) – Fast vs. Slow Shutter Speeds

Yes! You CAN Freeze Time!

There are two main ways to capture movement through photography: You can freeze the action, or you can give the illusion of movement. And both create interesting pictures.

In this image, I was able to stop the motion of the wave, freezing it in time, by using a very fast shutter speed of just 1/1250th of a second. You can even see the droplets of water when you zoom in!

This is cool, but what I really wanted to show you is the difference between this approach and a slow shutter speed on the exact same scene.

Moving Pictures

By using a slow shutter speed of only 1/15th of a second, I was able to create the illusion of the surfer moving through the wave. Notice the surfer remains reasonably sharp, but you can see the wave curling up around him.

The slower the shutter, the more movement you will capture, so you have to experiment to see what works best. I wanted to keep the surfer pretty sharp and tried 1/30th and 1/60th, but 1/15th was best for the effect I was going for.

Check out this comprehensive article…

The Ultimate Guide to Shutter Speed in Photography

Photographing the night sky - you'll need a very sturdy tripod


There are two main effects you can capture when it comes to movement:

  • You can freeze the action, or
  • You can show the movement
  • Your shutter speed will determine which effect you get.
  • To “freeze time”, use a very fast shutter speed. I used 1/250th of a second in my photo
  • To show the passage of time (action/motion), use a slow shutter speed. I found 1/15th of a second to be good for this shoot.

Both will give you unique pictures. It just depends on the vibe you’re going for.

Here are some other pictures I took at the wave pool. Notice how different the feel of each is. Can you tell which is the fast shutter speed and which is the slow?

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