18 Tips Waterfall Photography For Beginners Update 10/2021

Waterfalls are amazing places. You should visit them at least once in your life. There are many photographers who go to different parts of the world to take photos of waterfalls. Some of them are professional and some of them are just hobbyists. No matter what, all of them want to take photos of waterfalls in different ways.

In this article, we are going to discuss about one of the best ways to take great waterfall photography. This is a simple and easy way and if you do it, you will end up with some of the best photos of waterfalls that you will ever see.

Watch The Weather Forecast And Stay Safe When Photographing Waterfalls

waterfall photography-01

Niagara Falls, Canada – NIKON D800 – Focal Length 16mm – Aperture ƒ/5.6 – Shutter Speed 1/40s – ISO 200

The weather forecast for your area is the most important factor in determining whether or not you should go out and shoot waterfalls. If the rain is expected to fall in one place only for a short period of time, then it might be worth a shot. However, if it is expected to fall in many different areas for a long period of time, then don’t even think about going out.

Waterfalls are beautiful, but they can also be dangerous. They are far more likely to be dangerous when there is a lot of rainfall, because then the water level of the river or stream is very high and the flow is much faster. That means the water is coming down with much more force and there is much more chance of you (or your equipment) being swept away by the current.

If you do decide to photograph waterfalls anyway, make sure you are an experienced photographer who is very aware of the potential dangers and has taken the necessary precautions.

Camera Gear Essentials For Waterfall Photography

+ DSLR Camera

The most important piece of gear you can buy for waterfall photography is a good DSLR camera. If you already have a different type of camera, you should seriously consider buying a DSLR instead. A great place to start is with a full frame DSLR camera.

It will give you the highest quality images and the most flexibility. It has many of the same features as a point and shoot camera, but it also has many advanced features that make it much more useful for serious photographers.

One of those features is the ability to control depth of field. This lets you control exactly what part of the picture is in focus and gives you much more freedom in deciding what parts of the scene will be blurred. You can use this feature to create some very artistic shots, and it’s especially handy if you are photographing waterfalls.

+ Use Tripod

A tripod will keep your camera level and make sure your image is not blurred due to camera shake. When you use a tripod and slow down the shutter speed, your waterfall photos will come out looking much more professional.

+ Use A Wide-Angle Lens

waterfall photography-08

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland- Sony ILCE-7RM2 – Focal Length 18mm – Aperture ƒ/18 – Shutter Speed 1.6s – ISO 100

Waterfalls are great subjects for wide-angle shots. Not only does this make the subject appear much larger, it also gives you more room to work with by allowing you to show more of the surroundings than if you were taking a normal lens.

Experiment with different focal lengths until you find one that works for you. Don’t worry too much about getting everything in focus; instead, just play around until you find an image that speaks to you.

+ Telephoto Lenses Are Great For Compression

Waterfalls are one of the most popular subjects for photographers, and for good reason. They are dramatic, they are beautiful, they are a test of skill to get a sharp image, and they are a challenge to capture because of their movement and constant change.

With a telephoto lens, you can compress the distance between you and the waterfall, and thus, create an image with a degree of drama and “crispness” that is simply not possible without the use of a telephoto lens.

waterfall photography-09

Yosemite Valley, United States – Canon EOS 6D – Focal Length 235mm – Aperture ƒ/5 – Shutter Speed 1/320s – ISO 250

+ Lens Cloth

Waterfall photos can be very difficult to get right, but using a lens cloth can make a big difference. Just a tiny bit will do.

The reason is that a tiny bit of water on the front of the lens will cause a little bit of vignetting – a slight blurring of the edges of the photo. But if you use a lens cloth, you can wipe off the water before it has time to do too much damage.

+ Use Neutral Density Filters

Waterfalls are great subjects for long exposures because of the way they create these beautiful trails of ripples and eddies. However, if there is too much contrast in your image, the waterfall will look harsh and unpleasant.
This is where a neutral density (ND) filter comes in handy. It will reduce the light coming into your camera by ten stops or more, making it possible to expose for minutes instead of seconds and still capture a crisp, clean waterfall. You will also get much more variation in the color of the water as the sun moves across the sky, which gives your images more life.

+ Use Polarising Filters

Waterfalls are often very colorful, but they can be tricky to photograph if the sun is behind you and its harsh rays reflect off the water and back into your lens.
A polarising filter is a must-have for waterfall photography. It makes waterfalls really pop. Without it, the colours of the water will be muted, and it will look more like a still pond. With it, you will get this amazing, vibrant blue-green that makes everything stand out.

+ Use A 2-Second Timer Or Remote Shutter Release

Waterfalls are one of the most beautiful and underutilized subject matter for photographers. They are all around us, but we tend to overlook them because of their ordinariness. However, if you know how to use a remote release or a 2-second timer, you can capture images of waterfalls that are both dramatic and unique. A remote release is an inexpensive accessory for your camera, and it allows you to take the picture without touching the camera. Instead, you simply hold the button down on the release, and when you do, the camera will take the picture for you. The timing is usually pretty exact, so you don’t have to guess at how long to hold the button. You just press it, and the camera will take the shot when you are ready.

A 2-second timer works like a remote release, except it only gives you 2-seconds to take the shot. This gives you more control over how the photo will come out, because you can manipulate the shutter speed to blur the water if you want a more dramatic effect. A remote release or 2-second timer is especially useful when photographing waterfalls, because they allow you to shoot without getting too close to the falls.

Waterfall Photography Camera Settings

waterfall photography-03

Cairns, Australia – Canon EOS 5D mark III – Focal Length 18mm – Aperture ƒ/22 – Shutter Speed 2s – ISO 100

+ Use RAW Mode

When you shoot in RAW (or “undefined”) format, your camera records the full tonal range of each individual color channel. This gives you far more leeway when it comes to post-processing your images than if you were limited to only the three primary colors (red, green, and blue).

In other words, if you are using the correct lens and shooting in the “correct” exposure mode, you should be able to recover all the details in the shadows and highlights of your image, plus add a lot of extra detail to the midtones. This will make your photos look much more realistic.

+ Aperture For Waterfall Photography

Aperture is the opening in the lens that controls the amount of light that gets through to the sensor. It is measured in f-stops. The smaller the number (f/1.8, f/2.0 …) the more the lens lets in light. This means the photographer has more control over the exposure.

Waterfalls are one of the few natural phenomena where you can use a small aperture (f/22 or smaller) and still get a good image. Water is really a lot bluer in a small aperture than it is in a large one. So using a small aperture (f/16, f/22 or smaller) allows you to capture more of the blue in the water without making the photo look too contrasty (saturated).

+ Use A Slow Shutter Speed (Long Exposure Photography for Waterfalls)

When photographing waterfalls, one of the most effective techniques is to use long exposures. This is especially true when photographing smaller waterfalls and when you are far away from the waterfall.

Long exposure lets you capture the slow-motion movement of the water, which creates a sense of drama and energy that is impossible to achieve with ordinary photos.

However, there is a limit to how long you can expose your film or digital sensor to the sun. So, what you need to do is use long exposures in conjunction with some other photographic trickery to get much longer exposure times. One of the best ways to do this is to use a filters. It will reduce the light coming into your camera ,making it possible to expose for minutes instead of seconds and still capture a crisp, clean waterfall.

Waterfall Photography Composition

waterfall photography-06

Guwahati, India – Canon EOS 200D – Focal Length 31mm – Aperture ƒ/22 – Shutter Speed 1/4s – ISO 100

Composition is the arrangement of elements in a design or photograph. In this case, we’re talking about arranging the elements in your photograph to achieve the best effect. When you are photographing waterfalls, you will always have a lot of rocks and other uninteresting elements in your frame. The way to make your waterfall photograph more interesting is to include some of those elements in the design of your photograph.

For example, if there is a particularly attractive rock near the waterfall, include it in your photograph by having the rock partially hidden by the falling water.

Look For Natural Lines And Shapes

waterfall photography-07

Multnomah Falls, United States – Canon EOS 5D Mark III – Focal Length 48mm – Aperture ƒ/8 – Shutter Speed 92s – ISO 100

Waterfalls are often photographed because of their pretty colors, but that is only part of the appeal. Look for lines and shapes in the rocks and vegetation near the waterfall that will help you compose a more interesting photograph.

A common mistake is to shoot the waterfall from directly above, which is great if you want to show the spray, but terrible if you want to show the form and line of the cascade. Look for lines and shapes in the foreground that will add interest to your photograph.

Think About What To Include In The Frame

waterfall photography-04

NIKON D750 – Focal Length 20mm – Aperture ƒ/16 – Shutter Speed 0.3s – ISO 100

A waterfall is one of the most beautiful and common subjects for photographers, yet it is also one of the most challenging. Usually, the only part of the subject that is sharp is the very top of the waterfall where the spray is just hitting the surface of the water. Everything below that is either out of focus or simply a blur.

This is why it is important to think about what you include in the frame when you are shooting a waterfall. You can include a lot in a frame if you think about it. Consider including the rocks and the pool below the waterfall, or perhaps the sky above the waterfall.

Recognizing And Responding To The Lighting Conditions

waterfall photography-02

Niagara Falls, ON, Canada – Canon EOS 80D – Focal Length 45mm – Aperture ƒ/22 – Shutter Speed 2s – ISO 100

Waterfalls are wonderful subjects, but they can also be difficult to photograph. There are two primary lighting conditions you will encounter.

In the first, there is plenty of light from the sun, but the shadows are long and the waterfall is consequently dark. This is often the case when you are shooting during the day.

The second condition is somewhere in the middle. There is enough light to properly expose the image, but not so much light that the highlights are blown out. This is the best situation for most types of photography, and is often what you will get when you are shooting during the day, just before the sun goes down.

Misty Situation Or Lots Of Water Droplets

waterfall photography-10

Skógafoss, Iceland – NIKON D5100 – Focal Length 18mm – Aperture ƒ/13 – Shutter Speed 2s – ISO 100

Water is the most difficult element in nature to photograph. It is reflective, transparent, and often appears boring. However, when mist or water droplets are present, they can add an exciting element to your images. They can make your waterfall more dramatic, give your reflections in the water a mysterious quality, and even add atmosphere to your still life.

Look For Foreground Interest

Waterfalls are wonderful subjects, but often, they can be rather boring. Look for some aspect of foreground interest to break up the monotony of the waterfall itself.

Perhaps a rock juts out from the bottom that catches the light just so, or maybe a branch overhangs the fall so it creates a shadow on the rocks below. Look for whatever draws your eye away from the main subject and brings you back to the photographer.

Conclusion

Waterfalls are very beautiful places. If you ever go to Costa Rica or other tropical countries, you will find a lot of waterfalls. But, photographing those waterfalls is not an easy thing. There are many factors that can affect the quality of your photographs such as the weather conditions, the time of day that you take your photograph, the position of the sun and many others.

We hope that after reading this article, you will be able to take better photographs of those waterfalls and use them for your own purposes.