Waterfronts are one of the best places to capture photos from. Not only are you benefiting from a clear view of whatever it is you are photographing but you also often get reflections on the water. This can add an element to the photo which gives a pleasing result. The good news is that photographing waterfronts it’s relatively easy. So here are 7 tips to help you catch a stunning photo from a waterfront.
Find the right location
One of the key elements of good waterfront photography is to find the right location. Not all waterfronts have a great view of the subject you are photographing. So you need to find one that can not only give you a clear view but actually a good composition. Here are some of the things that you should look for a good location for waterfront photography:
- Distance from where you are standing to your subject. If you are too far away then the subject you are photographing will look too small and there’s going to be far too much dead space in your composition.
- Is there a clear point of interest in your photo? For example, if you’re photographing a skyline, are there interesting architecture or shapes that can draw the viewer in? Or if you’re photographing a mountain range is there something in the foreground like rocks or trees that can add that little bit of point of interest to the image?
- Is your location ideal for maximising the direction and quality of the light? (See below)
Your location is such a vital part of waterfront photography that you should spend a considerable amount of time researching the exact spot that you need to be photographing from. Google maps and street view has revolutionised this for most photographers. You can now see the view that you’re going to be seeing in most instances. So take advantage and try to plan your shoot accordingly.
Be ready for the right conditions
The right location is the first part of any great waterfront photo. But without the right conditions, your photo might look dull and uninteresting. So what are the right conditions?
Well, the most important element is light. Light plays a key part in any sort of outdoor photography. This is no different from any sort of waterfront shot. Whether you’re photographing at sunrise or during the blue hour, if you have great light to work with, your photos will immediately benefit. That doesn’t mean that you can only take photographs during these times. On the contrary sometimes stormy and moody skies can actually add a far more dramatic element to a photo.
But the right conditions include everything from light to the weather conditions and even the cloud coverage. For example, a thin layer of cloud low in the sky might give you a dramatic sunset. Whereas a moody or stormy sky will often mean you don’t get that dramatic sunset. So instead you can try to capture more contrast in the sky to bring out the different tones of greys in the clouds. You need to ask yourself what is the type of photo that you want to capture. Then you need to be prepared to head out when those conditions appear.
Another element of light that you need to consider is its direction. The direction of the light can vastly change how your photo looks. For example, if you’re photographing a cityscape with the sun behind you, you will find that the buildings in front of you will be beautifully lit. But you may find that at sunset you don’t get as dramatic a sky as you would if the Sun was in front of you or to the side. The direction of the light really depends on your location, time of year and the vision that you have for your final photo. So take time to consider how the light direction will affect your photo.
Select a narrow aperture
Often for waterfront photography, you will want the vast majority of your scene to be sharp and in focus. So this means you need to select a narrow aperture to give you the maximum depth of field. Most of the time starting at around f/8 is a good starting point. But if you have things in the foreground that you want to capture as well as the background then you should raise your aperture accordingly. Just avoid extremely narrow aperture of f/18 or higher as this can have a negative effect on the sharpness of your photos.
But like all things in photography, there are times where you will want to select a wide aperture to for example photograph something in the foreground. But keep in mind that selecting a wide aperture will mean that your depth of field will be reduced.
One of the things I love about capturing waterfront photos is the ability to set the camera up for long exposures. Not only does this give you that silky smooth water which brings out reflections and colours, but it can also give you those dynamic moving clouds in the sky. The other benefit of long exposures is that you will often have to set your camera on a narrow aperture which also means using a tripod. This makes capturing sharp photos much much easier.
But if you are going to be photographing at long exposures, make sure that you lock-up your mirror in your camera. You’ll find this in the settings of your camera. Not doing so will mean that every time the shutter opens and the mirror flips over inside your camera, small vibrations can cause camera shake. This manifests itself with soft out of focus or blurry photos.
Think about your composition
Just because you have a vast scene in front of you doesn’t mean you should try to capture all of it. The key to a good waterfront photo is to make sure that you photograph the important elements whilst keeping a form of balance in your photo. Using techniques such as the rule of thirds is a good way to ensure that not only your points of interest are composed well along the intersecting lines, but you have also set your horizon line correctly. A good tip to remember is to set your horizon line lower if you have a dramatic sky and higher if your sky looks bland and uninteresting. Take your time and experiment with different compositions until you find one that works.
Fix vertical lines
Converging lines is often an issue that occurs when photographing cityscapes. If you are not far enough back and have to tilt the camera upwards you will notice that in your photos your buildings will look like they are falling backwards or collapsing in on themselves. Thankfully these days you can fix the issues pretty easily in editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. The only issue you may face is if you are too close to your subject and so when you try to fix the photo in post-processing you don’t have enough space around your subject and the crop eats into your image. So if you find that this is an issue try to capture the image with as much space around the main subjects as possible. This will allow you to be able to fix the converging lines and still not crop into the main subject.
Waterfront photos taken in the right light can look stunning. In all the genres of photography, these types of photos are actually some of the easiest to perfect. With a bit of planning and the right composition, you’ll be able to capture stunning waterfront photos.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.