Seascape Photography Camera Settings
Here are some settings for seascape photography that you need to know:
- Metering Mode: Matrix (evaluative)
- Drive Mode: Single shot
- Shooting Mode: Manual (M)
- Aperture: f/8 to f/16
- ISO Setting: 100 to 200
- Shutter speed:
- 1/500 seconds or faster = freeze wave action
- 1/8 – 1/2 second = create a sense of motion in water (waves)
- 2-8 seconds = create ocean trails
- >10 seconds = flatten the seas (cotton wool effect)
- Focus Mode: Single Shot
- Auto-Focus Point: Single point autofocus
- Focal Length: 10-24 mm on APS-C camera
- Image Stabilization: On
Shutter speed: For seascape photographs the shutter speed is the most important setting as it will affect how the water (and sky) will look. A quick shutter speed (1/500 seconds or faster) will freeze the motion whereas a longer shutter speed (>2 sec) will produce a stringy or cotton candy effect. In low light you may need to increase the ISO as both shutter speed and aperture will be of importance to your image. When shutter speeds increase you are going to need to have a tripod and be careful when pressing the shutter to avoid picture blur. If you don’t have an external shutter button (app?) then consider a 2-second delay in the camera’s settings.
Note: If you are shooting during brighter parts of the day you will need Neutral Density filters to allow you to slow the shutter speed. See our article on camera filters if you would like more information on the various kinds of camera filters.
Aperture priority (‘A’ or ‘Av’): With seascape photography you often want everything in focus so you need an aperture (f-stop) that is large enough to focus past the immediate foreground (f/8-f/12). If however you have an important foreground object that you want to be sharp and have the rest of the image remain in focus consider using an aperture like f/16-f/22.
ISO: ISO controls how sensitive the camera is to the light hitting it with the range between 100-6400 or higher. Where possible you want to stick with an ISO of 100 or 200 as when you start increasing it you can introduce noise in the photograph. In seascape photography ISO will be the least important of the three settings so increase this first. You may need to increase your ISO up to 6400 as most modern cameras are able to handle the higher noise.
Below are two different exposure times for seascape photographs. The first photo is a 1/2 second exposure with a 4-stop ND filter taken at about 10am on an overcast day. I liked how the waves The bottom photo is a 2-minute exposure taken about 30-minutes after sunset on a clear day (no filter).
If you would like to learn more about the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) click here.