Last updated: 15 May, 2024

The Ultimate Guide To Waterfall Photography. Bonus Tips and Tricks to Help Photograph Waterfalls Like a Pro

Long exposure of Sychryd Waterfall in Bannau Brycheiniog - Brecon Beacons - on the Wales Waterfall Photography Workshop by UK Photo Tours

Long exposure of Sychryd Waterfall in Bannau Brycheiniog (AKA Brecon Beacons) on our Wales Waterfall Photography Workshop.

Table of Contents
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Key Takeaways of Waterfall Photography

  1. Photographing waterfalls requires careful consideration of the gear used.
  2. Weather-sealing and rain covers are important for protecting cameras and lenses from moisture.
  3. Neutral density filters are useful for achieving smooth textures on the surface of the water.
  4. Circular polarisers are important for reducing reflections and enhancing the focus on waterfalls.
  5. Lens hoods can be used to partially shield the lens from mist or water spray.
  6. Ultra-absorbent lens cloths are necessary for wiping down the lens or filter to maintain clarity (bring a few!). Also, the rocket/lens blowers are very handy at pushing the water droplets away.
  7. My personal favourite tip is to use a shower cap as a quick and easy protective cover over the lens/filters and the camera body.
  8. The mist from waterfalls can cause blurry photographs and spots in the frame.
  9. Being prepared for the challenges of light and the environment is essential for successful waterfall photography.

 

I. Introduction to Waterfalls

Waterfalls are one of nature’s most majestic and captivating sights, drawing photographers eager to capture their inherent beauty. They can vary from massive, thundering cascades to serene, trickling flows. However, photographing these spectacular natural phenomena requires more than just point-and-click; it demands an understanding of the scene, the right equipment, and a keen eye for composition. This guide will help you learn to photograph waterfalls like a pro.

 

i. Choosing the appropriate slow shutter speed

Selecting the right shutter speed is the crucial starting point for any guide to waterfall photography. It’s the key to capturing the water’s texture, from the silky smoothness of a long exposure to the crisp, frozen motion of a shorter exposure. Aim for slower shutter speeds, like 1/2 a second to several seconds, to achieve that ethereal flow. Experiment with a longer shutter speed and adjust to the water’s velocity and your desired effect.

 

Black and White long exposure photo of Brecon Beacons Waterfall, Sgwd Gwladys - taken at UK Photo Tours Wales Waterfall Weekend - Bannau Brycheiniog

Become an expert in filters using our award-winning Kase filters on our Wales Waterfall Tour

 

II. Essential Equipment – Photo Gear

When venturing out to photograph waterfalls, having the right equipment is imperative for professional results. Photographers should arm themselves with a durable tripod for stability, a variety of lenses for different angles and compositions, and a reliable camera capable of manual settings. Additionally, waterproof gear and a remote shutter release can greatly aid in capturing the dynamic nature of waterfalls without compromising safety or equipment integrity.

 

i. What camera do I need?

We recommend any camera with the ability to shoot in manual mode (or shutter priority mode). Essentially, we want to be able to control the shutter speed in our image. Phones can do an amazing job with many types of photographs nowadays (and ever-improving) but remember you may need to be able to hold your phone steady to nail the shot.

 

ii. Tripod – The Key For Stability and Longer Exposures With Water

A sturdy tripod is an absolute must-have for waterfall photo enthusiasts.

Its benefits go far beyond just preventing camera shake during long exposures. When you set up your camera on a tripod, it encourages you to slow down and approach your composition with more thoughtfulness and precision. By taking the time to carefully position and adjust your tripod, you can ensure that every element in your frame is precisely captured, allowing for sharper and more detailed images.

 

 

iii. Filters – Polarisers and Neutral Density Filters

Using filters is a crucial technique in waterfall photography to capture the essence and mood of the scene. Polarisers are our favourite for waterfalls (see more below). Neutral density (ND) filters, for example, allow you to work with slower shutter speeds, softening the water’s flow and emphasizing its silky texture.

 

iv. Polarisers (special note)

Circular polarising filters are fantastic at reducing annoying bright reflections from the sun/sky, which can ruin an image, along with avoiding specular highlights from water on rocks or leaves which can distract the eye within your image. Polarised light (at the right angle) by mean of reducing water surface glare, can also allow the more interesting features under the surface to be seen, such as rocks and logs, which can be used in composition as leading lines. Polarisers can enhance colours, making the greens of the foliage and the blues of the sky pop against the cascading water.

In our Waterfall Photography in Wales workshop, we consider a polariser an ESSENTIAL part of our equipment.

 

v. Remote Trigger

We recommend the use of a basic wired cable trigger. This can allow you to put your tripod and camera in a position where you may not be able to push the trigger, but can safely hold your tripod leg and shoot with the trigger and not lose balance.  The cable release can also help reduce the shaking of the camera when pushing the shutter button, although setting a 2-second delay on your exposure will help with movement.

Waterfall and snowy mountain Glen Etive, Glencoe, Scotland

 

III. Planning and Preparation

For anyone eager to capture the glory of and find waterfalls, meticulous planning and preparation are essential steps. Scouting the location in advance, understanding the lay of the land, and acknowledging any potential safety hazards are paramount. With the right gear, knowledge of the terrain, and an understanding of the waterfall’s environment, photographers can set themselves up for success in their quest to photograph these natural wonders.

 

i. Scouting the Area – Exploring the Landscape

Before embarking on a waterfall photography expedition, professionals perform a thorough reconnaissance of the area. This means earnestly exploring access routes, noting topographical features, and pinpointing the best vantage points for photos. Adequate scouting ensures they can navigate safely while finding those unique perspectives that transform a simple waterfall snapshot into a breathtaking masterpiece.

 

IV. Techniques for Shooting Waterfalls

Capturing the dynamic beauty of waterfalls requires a blend of technical skill and creative vision. Expert photographers know that mastering specific techniques can greatly enhance the final image. From finding the perfect shutter speed to framing the cascades amidst their natural environment, each decision plays a vital role in conveying the power and elegance of these natural wonders.

 

i. Adjusting Aperture and ISO Settings

Mastering aperture and ISO settings is crucial for aiming to make long exposure photography capture the full grandeur of waterfalls. An appropriate aperture controls the depth of field, bringing either the entire scene into sharp focus or isolating the waterfall. Concurrently, adjusting the ISO setting can help manage the light sensitivity of the camera, ensuring that the photographs remain clear without unwanted graininess, even under varying lighting conditions.

 

ii. Tips for Using Filters to Enhance the Image

Using the correct exposure and the right filters: is critical for photographers looking to add drama and clarity to their waterfall images. A circular polarising filter can reduce glare and enhance colours, making the water’s hues pop against the landscape. Meanwhile, a neutral density filter permits longer exposures without overexposing the picture, perfect for capturing that silky smooth water effect even in bright daylight.

Moss covered water mill in Borrowdale, Lake District, UNited Kingdom - UK Photo Tours and Holidays

V. Special Techniques for Capturing Unique Images

Capturing breathtaking shots of waterfalls requires more than just pointing and clicking. There are several techniques and factors to consider, such as shutter speed, lighting, filters, and locations. Whether you’re shooting in an urban area, a forested area, or an arid region, knowing the appropriate techniques can make all the difference. Long exposure and capturing the movement of flowing water are just some of the methods you can utilize to capture unique and stunning images of waterfalls. Don’t forget to also capture the surrounding scenery to showcase the beauty of the entire environment.

 

i. Using software to enhance the image

Once you’ve captured stunning images of waterfalls, post-processing techniques can help you take them to the next level. Using software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom can enhance the image’s colour, contrast, and saturation. You can also remove unwanted elements, adjust exposure levels, and sharpen the image to give it a professional touch. But be careful not to over-process the image, as it can result in an unnatural appearance. Remember, the goal is to enhance the beauty of your image without altering it beyond recognition.

 

ii. Capturing from different angles and perspectives

Capturing stunning images of waterfalls involves not only getting the right camera settings and lighting but also utilizing unique angles and perspectives. A simple change in angle can create a different mood, depth, and interest in your images. Shooting from a low position can create a sense of grandness, whilst from a high vantage can showcase the surrounding scenery. Experimenting with different perspectives, such as close-up or wide-angle shots, can also add diversity to your waterfall photo collection. Don’t be afraid to try new angles and perspectives to create stunning waterfall images.

 

VI. Post-Processing Techniques

Post-processing is a crucial step in bringing out the full potential of your waterfall photographs. It involves enhancing colour and contrast, removing unwanted elements, and adjusting exposure, among other things. With the right tools and techniques, you can create stunning and captivating images that truly showcase the beauty of waterfalls. In this section, we will explore various post-processing techniques to help you elevate your waterfall photography to the next level.

 

i. Adjusting brightness and contrast

To produce beautiful and captivating waterfall photographs, it is essential to adjust the brightness and contrast during post-processing. This allows you to bring out the depth and details in your images, making them much more striking. You can experiment with different settings to find the perfect balance between brightness and contrast that brings out the beauty of the waterfall while keeping its natural elements intact. Proper adjustment of brightness and contrast can give your photographs the professional touch they need to stand out from the rest.

 

VII. Common Mistakes to Avoid

Capturing the beauty of waterfalls may seem easy, but there are common mistakes that even experienced photographers make. Some of these include using the wrong shutter speed or aperture setting, not paying attention to lighting and reflections, and overexposure or underexposure. It’s essential to also consider the location of the waterfall, such as forested areas, urban areas, or arid regions, and adjust your approach accordingly to avoid common mistakes. By being mindful of these errors, you can capture stunningly beautiful waterfall photographs like a pro.

 

i. Poor Composition

One common mistake to avoid when photographing waterfalls is poor composition. This includes positioning the waterfall in the centre of the frame, failing to consider foreground and background elements, and not creating enough depth in the image. To improve composition, try placing the waterfall off-centre and experimenting with different angles. Additionally, incorporate leading lines and use the rule of thirds to create balance in the shot. By paying attention to composition, you can capture stunning waterfall images that are both visually interesting and well-composed.

 

VIII. Tips for Shooting Waterfalls in Different Locations

Capturing stunning waterfall images requires more than just good equipment. Different locations present various challenges, and it’s essential to consider them when planning a photoshoot. In urban areas, finding the right angle and perspective can be difficult. In forested areas, watch out for backlighting, which can make the image look flat. For arid regions, try experimenting with long exposures to capture the waterfall’s motion. Regardless of location, always remember to pay attention to composition and lighting to create visually striking shots.

 

i. Photographing Waterfalls in Mountainous Regions

Mountainous regions present a unique challenge when it comes to capturing stunning waterfall images. The varying lighting conditions, terrain, and weather conditions can affect the outcome. To achieve breathtaking shots, it’s important to pay attention to the surrounding elements, use the right equipment, and experiment with different angles and perspectives. You can also try using long exposures to convey the waterfall’s motion and create a sense of stillness in the surrounding landscape. With the right tools and techniques, you can capture the beauty of waterfalls in mountainous regions like a pro.

 

XIII. Conclusion

In conclusion, capturing the beauty of waterfalls is a task that requires dedication, patience, and a willingness to experiment. Whether you are a seasoned photographer or just starting, following these essential tips will help you achieve stunning results. Remember to use the right camera settings, experiment with longer exposures with filters, reducing glare by using a polariser, dress appropriately for the weather, and always put safety first.

Enhancing your waterfall images through software can take your photography to the next level. However, it is essential to use editing tools sparingly to keep your images natural and authentic. Whether you prefer to enhance colours, increase contrast, or remove blemishes, make sure to preserve the essence of your original image.

Mastering the art of waterfall photography is a journey that never ends. With each new shot, you will learn, grow, and improve your skills. So don’t be afraid to try new techniques, explore different locations, and above all, have fun. Happy shooting!

 

 

Final thoughts on the magic of waterfall photography

Waterfall photography is a mesmerizing art form that captures the raw beauty of nature in its purest form. The water’s movement, the sounds it makes, and the atmosphere created around waterfalls is simply magical.

To capture the true essence of waterfalls in your photographs, you need to spend time studying their behaviour and movement. Experimentation is key, and the more you practice, the more opportunities you have to create awe-inspiring shots.

Remember to keep safe when photographing near waterfalls and always be aware of the weather conditions. It’s essential to use the right camera settings and equipment, but it’s equally important to focus on creating a mood and atmosphere.

In the end, let your passion guide your shots and always strive to push your creative boundaries. Waterfall photography is an ever-evolving journey, and every new shot holds the potential to be more stunning than the last. So go out there and capture the magic of waterfalls like a pro!

Photographer takes picture at Sgwd Gwladys waterfall on workshop in the Brecon Beacons in Wales - Bannau Brycheiniog
Sgwd Gwladys waterfall on the Elidel Trail - Bannau Brycheiniog - Brecon Beacons - Wales Waterfall Photography Workshop - UK Photo Tours
  • What shutter speed for photographing waterfalls?

    To capture the movement of the water and create a silky-smooth effect, you'll need to use a slow shutter speed. A shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/20 of a second is a recommended starting point, and adjusting from there, depending on the speed of the water and your personal taste for either "milky" waterfalls or maintaining texture in the water. A longer exposure will increase the blurriness and result in a "milkier" result. Like most new photographers, when I first started taking photos of waterfalls, my taste was for longer exposures. As time went on, my preference is now to retain texture in the water to convey movement and retain lines that can lead the eye through the frame. Remember, a tripod is also essential to keep your camera stable throughout the long exposure shot.

  • What focal length should I use to capture a waterfall?

    Generally, you'll want a good depth of field for your image, especially if there are some foreground rocks in your composition. Our starting point for waterfall photography(or landscape photography in general) is f/11. This gives a good balance between the depth of field and the sharpness of your lens (most lenses are sharpest between f/8 and f/11). If you need to increase the aperture (larger number) to increase your depth of field or reduce the light in your exposure, you certainly can, just be aware that beyond f/16, you're likely to experience diffraction of the light, making the image soft.

  • What ISO should I use when photographing a waterfall?

    We recommend starting with your camera's base ISO. This can then be adjusted if needed, such as if you want a particular shutter speed but have a filter that is too dark (and opening up your aperture would reduce your depth of field), then you can increase your ISO until you reach your desired shutter speed.

  • How do I create a long exposure shot of a waterfall?

    To create a long exposure, you can set your camera to shutter priority mode and adjust the shutter speed accordingly. You can also use a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light entering the lens if needed to enable a slower shutter speed.

    Any other method? Yes, you can put your camera in aperture priority mode and increase the aperture to reduce the light and hence reduce the shutter speed. However, beyond around f/16 diffraction, the trade-off of increasing aperture will be a softer image. You still may need to use filters if the lighting is bright.

    Alternatively, you can shoot full manual (and likely using filters).

  • Should I use a polariser?

    In short, YES! (Well, in most cases the image will look better).

  • What should I wear when shooting a waterfall?

    Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather and terrain. Waterproof boots, a raincoat, and non-slip shoes are recommended.

  • Is it safe to shoot near a waterfall?

    It is comes down to an individual's personal assessment of Risk Vs Benefit. We are dealing with water and smooth rocks, so slipping is always a risk, even for the most sure-footed! Risks can be minimised by making sure you have footwear with excellent grip, use your tripod or walking poles to help balance and to ALWAYS have two points of contact with the ground.

    Embrace helping your fellow photographers by handing them their equipment to them once they're in position. This helps with both safety and protecting the equipment.

    Don't be scared or embarrassed to scramble on your butt to get to the vantage point you want. It is much more dignified and safer than falling over!

    Always prioritize your safety when shooting near waterfalls. Be aware of the terrain and weather conditions, and don't get too close to the edge of the falls. Remember, no picture is worth injuring yourself for.

  • How can I enhance my waterfall images using software?

    Post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, ON1 Photo Raw, Luminar, etc, can help you enhance your photos by adjusting the exposure, clarity, and colour balance. You can also use filters to add drama and mood to your images. However, remember to use editing sparingly and stick to natural-looking effects.

  • What are the best filters to use when shooting a waterfall?

    Filters are essential tools for waterfall photography, as they help you achieve the perfect shot by controlling light, reflections, and colour. Here are some of the best filters to use when photographing waterfalls:

    1. Polarising Filters: They reduce reflections and glare from the water and rocks, helping to deepen the colours in your image and provide greater clarity.
    2. Neutral Density Filters: These filters reduce the amount of light entering your camera, enabling you to use a slower shutter speed for a smooth, silky effect on the waterfall.
    3. Graduated Neutral Density Filters: In theory, these filters can be handy for capturing a balanced exposure in a scene where there is a significant difference in brightness between the sky and the ground. This filter is ideal for taking photos of waterfalls with bright skies in the background. In practice, however, I rarely use them personally or in our workshops, as often a better composition can be found by eliminating the sky (distracting), or that the whites of the water rapids is about as bright as the sky.

    By using these filters, you can elevate the impact of your waterfall photographs and create stunning images that capture the natural beauty of these incredible sights.

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Capturing the beauty of waterfalls can be a daunting task for even the most experienced photographers. To help you succeed in your waterfall photography endeavours, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions and answers below.

  • What shutter speed for photographing waterfalls?

    To capture the movement of the water and create a silky-smooth effect, you'll need to use a slow shutter speed. A shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/20 of a second is a recommended starting point, and adjusting from there, depending on the speed of the water and your personal taste for either "milky" waterfalls or maintaining texture in the water. A longer exposure will increase the blurriness and result in a "milkier" result. Like most new photographers, when I first started taking photos of waterfalls, my taste was for longer exposures. As time went on, my preference is now to retain texture in the water to convey movement and retain lines that can lead the eye through the frame. Remember, a tripod is also essential to keep your camera stable throughout the long exposure shot.

  • What focal length should I use to capture a waterfall?

    Generally, you'll want a good depth of field for your image, especially if there are some foreground rocks in your composition. Our starting point for waterfall photography(or landscape photography in general) is f/11. This gives a good balance between the depth of field and the sharpness of your lens (most lenses are sharpest between f/8 and f/11). If you need to increase the aperture (larger number) to increase your depth of field or reduce the light in your exposure, you certainly can, just be aware that beyond f/16, you're likely to experience diffraction of the light, making the image soft.

  • What ISO should I use when photographing a waterfall?

    We recommend starting with your camera's base ISO. This can then be adjusted if needed, such as if you want a particular shutter speed but have a filter that is too dark (and opening up your aperture would reduce your depth of field), then you can increase your ISO until you reach your desired shutter speed.

  • How do I create a long exposure shot of a waterfall?

    To create a long exposure, you can set your camera to shutter priority mode and adjust the shutter speed accordingly. You can also use a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light entering the lens if needed to enable a slower shutter speed.

    Any other method? Yes, you can put your camera in aperture priority mode and increase the aperture to reduce the light and hence reduce the shutter speed. However, beyond around f/16 diffraction, the trade-off of increasing aperture will be a softer image. You still may need to use filters if the lighting is bright.

    Alternatively, you can shoot full manual (and likely using filters).

  • Should I use a polariser?

    In short, YES! (Well, in most cases the image will look better).

  • What should I wear when shooting a waterfall?

    Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather and terrain. Waterproof boots, a raincoat, and non-slip shoes are recommended.

  • Is it safe to shoot near a waterfall?

    It is comes down to an individual's personal assessment of Risk Vs Benefit. We are dealing with water and smooth rocks, so slipping is always a risk, even for the most sure-footed! Risks can be minimised by making sure you have footwear with excellent grip, use your tripod or walking poles to help balance and to ALWAYS have two points of contact with the ground.

    Embrace helping your fellow photographers by handing them their equipment to them once they're in position. This helps with both safety and protecting the equipment.

    Don't be scared or embarrassed to scramble on your butt to get to the vantage point you want. It is much more dignified and safer than falling over!

    Always prioritize your safety when shooting near waterfalls. Be aware of the terrain and weather conditions, and don't get too close to the edge of the falls. Remember, no picture is worth injuring yourself for.

  • How can I enhance my waterfall images using software?

    Post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, ON1 Photo Raw, Luminar, etc, can help you enhance your photos by adjusting the exposure, clarity, and colour balance. You can also use filters to add drama and mood to your images. However, remember to use editing sparingly and stick to natural-looking effects.

  • What are the best filters to use when shooting a waterfall?

    Filters are essential tools for waterfall photography, as they help you achieve the perfect shot by controlling light, reflections, and colour. Here are some of the best filters to use when photographing waterfalls:

    1. Polarising Filters: They reduce reflections and glare from the water and rocks, helping to deepen the colours in your image and provide greater clarity.
    2. Neutral Density Filters: These filters reduce the amount of light entering your camera, enabling you to use a slower shutter speed for a smooth, silky effect on the waterfall.
    3. Graduated Neutral Density Filters: In theory, these filters can be handy for capturing a balanced exposure in a scene where there is a significant difference in brightness between the sky and the ground. This filter is ideal for taking photos of waterfalls with bright skies in the background. In practice, however, I rarely use them personally or in our workshops, as often a better composition can be found by eliminating the sky (distracting), or that the whites of the water rapids is about as bright as the sky.

    By using these filters, you can elevate the impact of your waterfall photographs and create stunning images that capture the natural beauty of these incredible sights.

  • What shutter speed for photographing waterfalls?

    To capture the movement of the water and create a silky-smooth effect, you'll need to use a slow shutter speed. A shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/20 of a second is a recommended starting point, and adjusting from there, depending on the speed of the water and your personal taste for either "milky" waterfalls or maintaining texture in the water. A longer exposure will increase the blurriness and result in a "milkier" result. Like most new photographers, when I first started taking photos of waterfalls, my taste was for longer exposures. As time went on, my preference is now to retain texture in the water to convey movement and retain lines that can lead the eye through the frame. Remember, a tripod is also essential to keep your camera stable throughout the long exposure shot.

  • What focal length should I use to capture a waterfall?

    Generally, you'll want a good depth of field for your image, especially if there are some foreground rocks in your composition. Our starting point for waterfall photography(or landscape photography in general) is f/11. This gives a good balance between the depth of field and the sharpness of your lens (most lenses are sharpest between f/8 and f/11). If you need to increase the aperture (larger number) to increase your depth of field or reduce the light in your exposure, you certainly can, just be aware that beyond f/16, you're likely to experience diffraction of the light, making the image soft.

  • What ISO should I use when photographing a waterfall?

    We recommend starting with your camera's base ISO. This can then be adjusted if needed, such as if you want a particular shutter speed but have a filter that is too dark (and opening up your aperture would reduce your depth of field), then you can increase your ISO until you reach your desired shutter speed.

  • How do I create a long exposure shot of a waterfall?

    To create a long exposure, you can set your camera to shutter priority mode and adjust the shutter speed accordingly. You can also use a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light entering the lens if needed to enable a slower shutter speed.

    Any other method? Yes, you can put your camera in aperture priority mode and increase the aperture to reduce the light and hence reduce the shutter speed. However, beyond around f/16 diffraction, the trade-off of increasing aperture will be a softer image. You still may need to use filters if the lighting is bright.

    Alternatively, you can shoot full manual (and likely using filters).

  • Should I use a polariser?

    In short, YES! (Well, in most cases the image will look better).

  • What should I wear when shooting a waterfall?

    Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather and terrain. Waterproof boots, a raincoat, and non-slip shoes are recommended.

  • Is it safe to shoot near a waterfall?

    It is comes down to an individual's personal assessment of Risk Vs Benefit. We are dealing with water and smooth rocks, so slipping is always a risk, even for the most sure-footed! Risks can be minimised by making sure you have footwear with excellent grip, use your tripod or walking poles to help balance and to ALWAYS have two points of contact with the ground.

    Embrace helping your fellow photographers by handing them their equipment to them once they're in position. This helps with both safety and protecting the equipment.

    Don't be scared or embarrassed to scramble on your butt to get to the vantage point you want. It is much more dignified and safer than falling over!

    Always prioritize your safety when shooting near waterfalls. Be aware of the terrain and weather conditions, and don't get too close to the edge of the falls. Remember, no picture is worth injuring yourself for.

  • How can I enhance my waterfall images using software?

    Post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, ON1 Photo Raw, Luminar, etc, can help you enhance your photos by adjusting the exposure, clarity, and colour balance. You can also use filters to add drama and mood to your images. However, remember to use editing sparingly and stick to natural-looking effects.

  • What are the best filters to use when shooting a waterfall?

    Filters are essential tools for waterfall photography, as they help you achieve the perfect shot by controlling light, reflections, and colour. Here are some of the best filters to use when photographing waterfalls:

    1. Polarising Filters: They reduce reflections and glare from the water and rocks, helping to deepen the colours in your image and provide greater clarity.
    2. Neutral Density Filters: These filters reduce the amount of light entering your camera, enabling you to use a slower shutter speed for a smooth, silky effect on the waterfall.
    3. Graduated Neutral Density Filters: In theory, these filters can be handy for capturing a balanced exposure in a scene where there is a significant difference in brightness between the sky and the ground. This filter is ideal for taking photos of waterfalls with bright skies in the background. In practice, however, I rarely use them personally or in our workshops, as often a better composition can be found by eliminating the sky (distracting), or that the whites of the water rapids is about as bright as the sky.

    By using these filters, you can elevate the impact of your waterfall photographs and create stunning images that capture the natural beauty of these incredible sights.

FAQ / Waterfall Photography Tips

Capturing the beauty of waterfalls can be a daunting task for even the most experienced photographers. To help you succeed in your waterfall photography endeavours, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions and answers below.

 

What shutter speed for photographing waterfalls?

To capture the movement of the water and create a silky-smooth effect, you’ll need to use a slow shutter speed. A shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/20 of a second is a recommended starting point, and adjusting from there, depending on the speed of the water and your personal taste for either “milky” waterfalls or maintaining texture in the water. A longer exposure will increase the blurriness and result in a “milkier” result. Like most new photographers, when I first started taking photos of waterfalls, my taste was for longer exposures. As time went on, my preference is now to retain texture in the water to convey movement and retain lines that can lead the eye through the frame. Remember, a tripod is also essential to keep your camera stable throughout the long exposure shot.

 

What focal length should I use to capture a waterfall?

Generally, you’ll want a good depth of field for your image, especially if there are some foreground rocks in your composition. Our starting point for waterfall photography(or landscape photography in general) is f/11. This gives a good balance between the depth of field and the sharpness of your lens (most lenses are sharpest between f/8 and f/11). If you need to increase the aperture (larger number) to increase your depth of field or reduce the light in your exposure, you certainly can, just be aware that beyond f/16, you’re likely to experience diffraction of the light, making the image soft.

 

What ISO should I use when photographing a waterfall?

We recommend starting with your camera’s base ISO.  If you are shooting in low light, you may need to increase your ISO to get the shutter speed you are wanting (assuming you keep your aperture at a value to maintain your depth of field). Likewise, if you are in-between ND filters strengths, such as a 6-stop and a 10-stop, you can use the 10-stop and increase your ISO. For example, going from ISO 100 up to 200, will make the 10-stop into 9-stops of light being filtered. Or increasing ISO 100 up to 400, will result in 8-stops of light.

 

Should I use a polariser?

In short, YES! (Well, in most cases the image will look better).

 

What should I wear when shooting a waterfall?

Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather and terrain. Waterproof boots, a raincoat, and non-slip shoes are recommended.

 

Is it safe to shoot near a waterfall?

It is comes down to an individual’s personal assessment of Risk Vs Benefit.  We are dealing with water and smooth rocks, so slipping is always a risk, even for the most sure-footed! Risks can be minimised by making sure you have footwear with excellent grip, use your tripod or walking poles to help balance and to ALWAYS have two points of contact with the ground.

Embrace helping your fellow photographers by handing them their equipment to them once they’re in position. This helps with both safety and protecting the equipment.

Don’t be scared or embarrassed to scramble on your butt to get to the vantage point you want. It is much more dignified and safer than falling over!

Always prioritize your safety when shooting near waterfalls. Be aware of the terrain and weather conditions, and don’t get too close to the edge of the falls. Remember, no picture is worth injuring yourself for.

 

How can I enhance my waterfall images using software?

Post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, ON1 Photo Raw, Luminar, etc, can help you enhance your photos by adjusting the exposure, clarity, and colour balance. You can also use filters to add drama and mood to your images. However, remember to use editing sparingly and stick to natural-looking effects.

 

What are the best filters to use when shooting a waterfall?

Filters are essential tools for waterfall photography, as they help you achieve the perfect shot by controlling light, reflections, and colour. Here are some of the best filters to use when photographing waterfalls:

  1. Polarising Filters: They reduce reflections and glare from the water and rocks, helping to deepen the colours in your image and provide greater clarity.
  2. Neutral Density Filters: These filters reduce the amount of light entering your camera, enabling you to use a slower shutter speed for a smooth, silky effect on the waterfall.
  3. Graduated Neutral Density Filters: In theory, these filters can be handy for capturing a balanced exposure in a scene where there is a significant difference in brightness between the sky and the ground. This filter is ideal for taking photos of waterfalls with bright skies in the background.  In practice, however, I rarely use them personally or in our workshops, as often a better composition can be found by eliminating the sky (distracting), or that the whites of the water rapids is about as bright as the sky.

By using these filters, you can elevate the impact of your waterfall photographs and create stunning images that capture the natural beauty of these incredible sights.

How can I enhance my waterfall images using software?

Post-processing software like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, ON1 Photo Raw, Luminar, etc, can help you enhance your photos by adjusting the exposure, clarity, and colour balance. You can also use filters to add drama and mood to your images. However, remember to use editing sparingly and stick to natural-looking effects.

 

 

What are the best filters to use when shooting a waterfall?

Filters are essential tools for waterfall photography, as they help you achieve the perfect shot by controlling light, reflections, and colour. Here are some of the best filters to use when photographing waterfalls:

  1. Polarising Filters: They reduce reflections and glare from the water and rocks, helping to deepen the colours in your image and provide greater clarity.
  2. Neutral Density Filters: These filters reduce the amount of light entering your camera, enabling you to use a slower shutter speed for a smooth, silky effect on the waterfall.
  3. Graduated Neutral Density Filters: In theory, these filters can be handy for capturing a balanced exposure in a scene where there is a significant difference in brightness between the sky and the ground. This filter is ideal for taking photos of waterfalls with bright skies in the background.  In practice, however, I rarely use them personally or in our workshops, as often a better composition can be found by eliminating the sky (distracting), or that the whites of the water rapids is about as bright as the sky.

By using these filters, you can elevate the impact of your waterfall photographs and create stunning images that capture the natural beauty of these incredible sights.

How To Photograph Waterfalls videos

Author Bio

Dion Hitchcock - Owner of UK Photo Tours and Photography Workshop Guide

Dion Hitchcock

A professional photographer with over a decade of expertise in teaching photography workshops and guiding photographic tours and holidays, Dion is the owner and operator of UK Photo Tours. An expat Australian, he resides in London, when he’s not running photography tours and workshops across the UK.

His passion for photography was ignited by his extensive travel experiences, spanning over 40 countries, and he now chronicles his journeys through his lens. He is also a registered pharmacist and maintains his professional registration.

Dion has been involved in running Meetup.com photography groups since 2011, and since 2018, he has run his own growing photography Meetup groups with over 7,000 members and more than 550 5-star ratings! He is supported by Kase Filters and is a member of Nikon Professional Services.

A list of his currently available photography workshops.

 

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