I had been to a waterfall near my city and here are a few things that I learned for taking photos of waterfalls. All the photos that you see here were taken at that fall.
1. Be there at the right time
Photography is all about light and in outdoor photography, light is all about timing. The light is golden during the dawn and dusk. You will get better textures and colors during that time.
To take a photo as you see above, I needed an exposure of approx 1 seconds. The early morning and the overcast sky helped a lot. I could not have done that during broad day light.
2. Carry the right equipments
Usually you will have to trek some distance to reach a waterfall, it makes sense to carry only the most useful equipments. Here is what you need:
a. A camera that has creative modes like Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual Mode etc
No, your cell phone will not be able to take these photos
And even the cheapest DSLR will take better photos than the most expensive compact camera.
b. A Lens.
You just need one lens. It could be your kit lens, the 18-200mm or my favorite, the 16-85mm.
Keep all other lenses at home. They just add weight in your bag.
c. A tripod.
You will be working with some very slow shutter speeds. You will need a stable base where you can keep your camera.
Having a stable tripod is a must.
This completes the list of MUST HAVE equipments.
But if you have it, also bring along your Circular Polarizing Filter, ND Filter and the Graduated ND Filter.
If you do not know what they are, ignore them. You do not need them right now.
3. Find the right point of view
When you reach the location of the fall, do not start firing your camera and taking photos of everything around you.
Keep your camera in your bag and take a walk in that area. Look around you and ask yourself ... what makes this place beautiful.
Once you find an answer to that question, you will find out the best point of view to take your photos.
4. Shoot in the right mode
The reason why you need a camera with modes like Shutter, Aperture, Manual etc is because the only way to get the cotton like texture of water is to shoot in slow shutter speed.
Here is what you need to do
a. Set your camera in Shutter Priority Mode
b. Set the ISO to the lowest possible number (i.e. approx ISO 100 or ISO 50).
c. Set your shutter to approx 1 sec and click a photo.
d. If the photo is overexposed, it means that there is a lot of light falling on the sensor.
Now is the time to use your ND filter. If you do not have it, put your black sun-glasses in front of the lens. Try this again.
If even this does not help, then wait for the sun to go down so that the atmosphere becomes darker.
e. If that does not work, then increase the shutter speed to less than a second and see if this helps.
Remember that the faster the shutter speed, less fluffy will be your water.
That is it. Try out various shutter speed to find out what works for you.
Remember, even experts do not get the perfect shot in their first attempt.
5. Take care of exposure
The problem with long exposure is that your sky will blow out. You will get pure white sky in almost all your photos.
To take care of this, do the following
a. Set your file type to RAW.
b. Set your exposure compensation to -1 or -2 EV so that it under-exposes your photo i.e. makes your photo look dark but makes your sky look ok.
c. Then you will have to use Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to selectively correct the exposure.
The reason we shoot in RAW is that RAW will help you recover almost 2 stops of data from dark areas (aka shadows) and one stop of data from bright areas (aka highlights) in your photo.
You will not get this benefit if you shoot in JPEG format.
6. Take care of the depth of field
In your photos of waterfall, usually you will want the entire scene to be in focus and sharp. The only way to get it is to shoot in aperture priority mode and set an aperture of F11 or higher.
7. Be aware of what is there in your photo (Composition)
When you are taking photos of waterfall (or for that matter any landscape) break your photo into three parts... i.e. the foreground, the background and something in between. Try to make sure that you have something interesting in all these three parts of your photo.
I hope you find these tips interesting.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or suggestions, do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.
I am writing a series called 101 tips to make you a better photographer in which I share everything that I learn about photography.
You can read more about it on my blog at www.GunjanKarun.com