All you need to know to Photograph Waterfalls

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During my photographic trips it often happens to be in the places that have waterfalls nearby and every time I don’t miss the opportunity to go and visit some of them.
The reason for this is that in addition to their natural beauty and charm of the fullness of nature they have an incredible variety

Waterfalls also represent an incredible photographic spot for every landscape photographer for the context in which they are often inserted and for the possibility of photographing them from multiple angles, radically changing the perspective and the sensations that are transmitted to the viewer

So in this article we will see all you need to know to photograph waterfalls starting from necessary equipments up to shooting tips


Tripod: One of the essential requirements for every long exposure shot is a sturdy tripod, when using the tripod in the field always consider the slippery surfaces that are around the falls, explore the position well to find the right pov

Lenses: in most cases it happen to photograph the falls with the help of a wide angle lenses, these lenses are the best to include as much as possible of the scenery around the waterfall and allows to create good compositions with foreground, rocks, water etc. It is also interesting trying different angles, for example with 24-70 (it depends on the waterfall) to have a closer look of the scene

ND Filters: this is the part of your gear that in many cases manages to give that extra touch to the movement of your waterfall. It is not required a strong ND because the waterfalls are almost always found in wooded areas and with not too strong lighting, a 3 – 6 stop is usually what I use most

At the same time happened to me to photograph waterfalls even without any filter to catch the movement in a different way or simply because I liked the flow of water as it was

Waterfall captured without ND Fiters


Unlike many landscapes, waterfall photography can be done in different conditions, if usually in landscape photography you try to avoid gray and flat skies or rainy days, these are instead the ideal days to take the waterfalls. So cloudy day will helps so much to create a natural soft light to your waterfall

It is also possible to photograph waterfalls in sunny days to take advantage of the sunlight that filters through the leaves of the vegetation to have beautiful light effects, in this cases you have to pay attention to the water reflections and avoid to keep them too overexposed or creating too much contrasted areas

Waterfall captured during Sunset


Iso: Since you’re using a tripod to photograph waterfalls use the lowest ISO possible, this will reduce the noise and capture the most dynamic range

Shutter Speed: The key is to use slows shutter speed, I usually move through f13 or f18 it depends of what filter I am using for the shot, I try to avoid diaphragms totally closed to for this kind of photo unless it should also include sun spikes

Manual Mode and Manual Focus: If you are using ND filters on waterfall, manual mode is a must because the camera didn’t always choose the aperture I needed to get the right depth of field.

Manual Focus it is a very important requirement to have the sharpest images possible, it constitutes that added value to your landscape photography, to better master manual focus read this article

Waterfall composition example

Compose the Waterfall Scene: This is the most important point, composing the frame doesn’t mean simply photography a waterfall but capture it’s movement, the envinroments that composed it. Every waterfall has a lot of vegetation, rocks, trees, leaves around it. The goal is to capture an image that includes the waterfall within the context in which it is located, this will make the image much more interesting for the viewer

Always Watch Highlights: In waterfall photography the water probably will be your primary subject, so the best choice will be to expose to the waterfall in order to control the highlights on the water. Always check the instogram to control the shot and avoid too much underexposed/overexposed areas

Freeze Trees: Capturing one shot of the scene without the use of filters or long exposures is important for having a static image of the waterfall and its surroundings. Waterfalls are often in wooded environments full of leaves and trees that can move and move with the wind making all the leaves fuzzy. Capturing one or more shots in this way will allow you to replace the blurry areas in post processing

In this image I used the exposure to save the trees from movement

Bonus Post Processing Tip: A general tip for post processing waterfall is to take the highlights down, usually I do the same but in camera Raw I balance this using white points. I capture the scene with multiple exposures in order to blend images, for example with trees as I described above or to darken or lighten properly the exposures using digital blending or luminosity masks

If you haven’t already download my free luminosity masks panel to make your workflow easier and start using it on your next waterfall shot

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Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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