I wrote this recent post to answer a common question I receive from subscribers, and based on the replies I got it seemed to go down quite well.
So to piggyback on that, here’s another question I get every once in a while:
“How can I get that blurry water effect in the daytime?”
Which is then sometimes followed up with something along the lines of:
“I can’t seem to get a long enough shutter speed to get the blurry water effect without completely overexposing my shot.”
The effect folks are referring to is the “silky” appearance that moving water takes on when you use a slow shutter speed to capture that movement.
And the key to being able to use a slow shutter speed is reducing the amount of light you let into your camera.
Which you can do by adjusting your ISO and Aperture settings.
But that will only take you so far in really bright situations (like daytime shooting).
So when you reach the limit of your ISO and Aperture (ISO is at it’s lowest, and Aperture is at it’s smallest) and it’s still not cutting out enough light to allow a long exposure to happen…
…you’ll have to start looking outside of your cameras settings for other ways to reduce the amount of light entering your camera.
The best (only?) way you can do this with a Neutral Density (ND) filter.
Like sunglasses for your camera.
Basically a piece of dark glass (or resin) that goes in front of your lens to make the scene appear darker.
So with your camera receiving less light, you can then crank the shutter speed down to a few seconds or more .
And the longer the shutter is open, the more water movement you can capture.
And the more water movement you capture, the more of that blurry/silky effect you will create.
ND filters are rated based on the number of stops of light which they filter out.
2 and 3 stop filters are the most common, but if you’re planning on shooting long exposures in the daytime then you’ll need something a little stronger.
I own just one ND filter, a 6-stopper, which lets me comfortably shoot a 4 or 5 second exposure in daylight.
Though if my girlfriend Sonia is feeling generous and let’s me borrow one of her 10-stop filters, then I can get some really interesting long exposures up to 30 seconds or more in broad daylight.
And there’s something very unique about seeing a daytime scene shot with a long exposure like this.
You can even use this technique to make people dissapear from a busy scene if they are moving around the frame whilst your shutter is open – but that’s a topic for another time!