Photographing Water in Summer Sunshine

River rocks and water in the 2012 summer sunshine.

The sun can glare and flares off the water can create sharp contrasts in your photos.  Photographing water and rocks in the summer sunshine can be a challenge if you don’t have a Neutral Density (ND) or Circular Polarizing filter. These filters can be expensive if you are on a budget and unable to purchase them.  There are other solutions to reducing glare and sun flare in your summer photos of water.

How do you prevent or minimize glare of the sun off water?  First, don’t point the camera toward the sun.  If you can’t prevent aiming your camera toward the sun you may want to try adjusting the angle of your camera in relation to your subject.  The image above was created on a fully sunny day without a cloud in the sky. (A larger version of the above photo can be seen on my website:  My camera was tilted forward, toward the subject and as close as possible without getting it wet.  Second, choose your depth of field carefully.  My camera was tilted forward, with the kit zoom (18-55 mm) lens adjusted so that the large rock and water in the right third of the frame was the primary area of focus.  Notice the larger rock is darker and has colors that contrast well with the water (orange and dark green).  Third, use the highlights and shadow controls in your photo editing program.  Be sure that the highlights are not too strong, adjust these controls slowly.  Look at the image after making slight adjustments, making sure areas do not become “blown out or lost” (too bright or too dark).

Sun glare and flares can be reduced if you use the right skills from the start when composing your photo and pressing the shutter.  Walk around your subject, tilt your camera, and use a careful depth of field.  Use those suggestions wisely and you will spend less time using the photo editing program to make corrections to the photo.  Have you successfully reduced sun glare and flares without using filters?  What other tips or suggestions have worked in photographing water in bright summer sunshine? Or do you try to avoid photographing water in the summer sunshine?


About Douglas Wilks Photography

I am an advanced photographer who lives in western Montana. I create a variety of strong images using a DSLR, computer, and digital software. I am available for hire for full time, part time, or projects. Most of my images are of landscapes, still life, and events. I am always looking to improve my skills, network of friends and professionals, and portfolio. I look forward to creating new friends, contacts, and others who are interested in photography.
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