You’ve seen those pictures in the landscape magazines, with water flowing down the sides of mountains looking as smooth as silk. Taking a great waterfall photo is not as difficult as it looks.
What you’ll need
- camera with manual aperture/shutter settings
- Neutral density filters (optional)
- Camera shutter release remote (optional)
The best time to take a photo of a waterfall is early morning or late afternoon, when the light is not strong, enabling a longer exposure. Many waterfalls are found in dark areas such as rainforests and glades, so it is possible to take a long exposure during the middle of the day. Neutral density filters can be used to compensate for strong light and unbalanced exposures.
Take care when shooting waterfalls. It may seem like a great idea to hop that fence for a photo, but barriers are there for a reason. Strong water currents can easily take you and your equipment over the edge of a waterfall.
How to take a great waterfall photo
- Set up your tripod away from water sources. You may want to balance on a rock or lookout area.
- Compose your image. While it’s popular to shoot the whole waterfall, you can try different angles by shooting diagonally across the frame or focussing on a particular feature such as a rock or leaf.
- Put your camera on shutter priority. Set the shutter time to between 1-10 seconds. The aperture should be between f11-f22 for landscape photography. Generally, the longer the shutter speed the more smooth the waterfall will look.
- Set up your shot with a timed exposure so you don’t shake the camera. Alternatively use a camera shutter release remote.
- Press the button to focus, then release!
Tips and tricks
- If your lens is getting a little splash from the fall’s spray, try covering it with a large lens cloth until you’re ready to shoot.
- Get up and out. Finding the best waterfalls requires a little physical exercise.
- Try not to overdo the silky effect, otherwise it can look like one big blob of white. If you find the water is overexposed, try bracketing down.
- Look for patterns in the water. Water foam can make an attractive pattern when swirling in circles, which can only be seen with a long exposure.