There are two schools of thought regarding photographing waves. The first is to use a high shutter speed to freeze the motion of a cresting wave and any spray. Other photographers like to use a slow shutter speed. The following paragraphs address each scenario.

To freeze the motion of a wave, you need to use a shutter speed of at least 1/250 of a second. If you zoom in on a wave, you have to use an even faster shutter speed, perhaps as fast as 1/1000 of a second.

You should also use a small aperture of f/11 to ensure a large depth of field. Shooting in low light conditions forces you to increase the ISO setting, which may cause a noise problem.

To artistically portray the power of waves in motion, use a slow shutter speed longer than one second. This renders the water in silky patterns. When you use a shutter speed that’s several seconds long, you get an even more artistic result.

To achieve a long shutter speed, choose your lowest ISO setting, and then choose the smallest aperture on your lens. If you’re photographing in bright light, you may have to use a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor, which decreases the shutter speed.

You will have to use a tripod or some other method of supporting the camera when you photograph waves with a slow shutter speed.