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Waterfall Digital Photography

One of the most common questions that I’m asked is ‘how do I photograph waterfalls?’

Waterfalls-1

Waterfalls do present themselves as a wonderful and challenging subject matter to photographers. Firstly they’re beautiful places, secondly they are often in tricky lighting situation and thirdly they’re a dynamic subject as they’re moving (and of course movement means a challenge but also a real opportunity for a more dynamic shot).

A lot has been written about the finer points of photographing waterfalls but the basics are fairly simple.

Working with Movement

Anytime you’re presented with a moving subject a photographer really has two options. Firstly they can freeze the motion by using a fast shutter speed and secondly they can capture and enhance the motion by using a longer shutter speed that blurs the moving element in the shot (in this case – water).

Most photographers take the second option and allow the water to blur. Here’s how to do it. You’ll need your digital camera and a tripod. It will also be helpful to have a polarizing filter if you have one.

How to Photograph Waterfalls

Waterfall-1

Take a Control Shot - Before you start experimenting – switch your camera to auto mode, make sure your flash is turned off and take a shot of the waterfall. As you do – take notice of the exposure that the camera sets. Your camera will almost certainly choose an exposure that freezes the water somewhat. This photo will be a bit of a reference point to compare your shots to later and to use as a basis for your exposures.

Shutter Priority Mode – Switch to shutter priority mode on your camera (we’ve talked about shutter and aperture priority modes previously). Generally you’ll want to try to get a shutter speed of 1 to 2 seconds to get a nicely blurred water.

Tripod – Of course to take a shot at a shutter speed of this length you’ll definitely need a tripod or some other way to ensure that your camera is completely still for the full time that the shutter is open.

Sounds easy doesn’t it – attach your camera to a tripod, switch to shutter priority mode, set your shutter speed to 1-2 seconds and take the shot. Unfortunately in most cases it’s not that simple.

The problem with increasing the shutter speed is that it increases the amount of light that gets into your camera and unless it’s quite a dark and gloomy day you’ll find your image is going to be over exposed (even though in shutter priority mode the camera will choose a very small aperture to try to compensate for it).

Other Tips to Try to Get Exposure Right

There are a couple of things that you can do to decrease the amount of light coming into your camera and get your exposure levels better:

Photographing-Waterfalls-1

Timing – pick the right time of the day to do your waterfall photography and you can definitely give yourself more options to use longer shutter speeds. Around sunrise and sunset are obvious times as light is less bright. Also overcast days are better than bright ones.

Filters – using a filter that cuts down the amount of light entering your camera can help also. There are a variety of filters available that do this but I generally use a polarizing filter as it not only cuts down the light getting in but also can help you improve your shots (they cut down on reflections in shots – and waterfalls can have quite a few of these). Another type of filter you might like to use is a neutral density filter which is a filter that cuts down the light entering your camera – almost like putting sunglasses on.

Aperture Priority Mode - if you are still having trouble with exposure even at darker times of the day and with the use of a polarizing filter another approach that you can take is switch into Aperture Priority Mode and choose the smallest aperture possible. On most cameras this will be f/22 or f/36. The result of choosing this is that your camera will automatically choose the longest shutter speed available for that aperture. It may not be 2 seconds – but it will almost always be longer than the shutter speed in that first control shot that you took and as a result the water will blur more than in the first shot. The other impact of having a smaller aperture is that you’ll have a larger depth of field and more of the waterfall will be in focus.

Low ISO – Choosing a lower ISO will mean that your camera’s sensor is less sensitive to light and will need the shutter to be open longer. It will also mean less ‘noisy’ or grainy shots which will give your shots lots of nice detail.

More Waterfall Photography Tips

Of course getting the exposure right is just part of the equation when it comes to photographing waterfalls with you digital camera. here are a few extra tips.

Waterfall-Photography-1

Bracket your Shots
The first time I ever did some waterfall photography was over a decade ago when I was using a film SLR. I spent a week away by myself purely for photography in an area where there are many waterfalls.

What I learned in that week was the importance of bracketing my shots – taking a series of shots at different shutter speeds and apertures. I found that in doing this that I could capture a variety of very different images of exactly the same scene with changes in the extent that the water blurred, changes in the depth of field and changes in the way the camera captured color.

Also use your cameras built in exposure bracketing (check your manual) and bracket your shots in this way also.

Composition
Also on my week of photographing waterfalls I learned that a waterfall could be photographed from many angles and in many different ways ranging from the wide angle shot that puts the waterfall into it’s wider context right down to tightly cropped shots that focus upon just one small part of the waterfall. Also look for the different ways the water flows. In some places it’ll be multiple streams, in others it will gush explosively everywhere and in others it will flow gently in a single stream. Try a variety of positions on the waterfall (you’ll find that it’ll flow at different speeds in different sections also) and experiment with how the different parts look at slow shutter speeds.

Waterfall-Digital-Photography-1

Tidy Up
While I’m a big believer in being an environmentally friendly photographer (and always leaving a location the way you found it) a little tidying up of your scene can have a big impact upon a waterfall scene). Before taking shots scan your eye over your frame and look to see if there are any distracting elements that might be able to be moved. Particularly look for litter but also consider leaves on rocks etc. Simply tidying up the image in a way that doesn’t do any physical damage to the location can take your images to the next level.

Don’t Become Obsessed with Blurred Water
The effect of silky smooth moving water in your shots is difficult to resist but don’t let it become the only type of waterfall image that you capture. Try taking some shots with ultra fast shutter speeds also. This can especially be a powerful technique on raging waterfalls where there is lots of spray and explosive splashes. The other impact of faster shutter speeds is that you’ll need to use larger apertures which means narrow depth of field which will bring a whole new impact to your shots.

Get out and Experiment
That’s enough theory – now it’s time to get out and do it because the more you do the better you’ll get. Have fun!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Stan Robins

    The image of flowing water as a motion blur has become a tiresome cliché. Capturing the individual droplets, rivulets, eddies often makes for a more interesting photograph. The final paragraph hints at the challenges and opportunities of moving beyond a motion blurred flow, but the article provides no examples.

  • NEERAV MEHTA

    WITHOUT TRIPOD

  • Jim the Photographer

    using a remote of some type is also helpful

  • Iskra Kosor-Dugali?

    great ..

  • tyuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

    stupid

  • Arod
  • LE

    I wish I had read up on this before I went out today! Wasted a day of over exposed shots but oh we’ll hopefully I will encounter more falls to practise with! Good tips- thanks!

Some older comments

  • Eliane

    July 26, 2013 07:40 pm

    Here's a great collection of waterfalls: http://www.dreamstime.com/cascading-rcollection19859-resi239750 :)

  • George McWilliams

    May 2, 2012 12:31 am

    Sorry about a second comment but you can use this on other moving subjects like blades on a turning windmill (windfarms everywhere) or interesting effects on waves crashing on rocks at the ocean. There is also and old technique using RGB filters triplle exposure such that everything that doesnt move looks normal but waves and waterfalls have flashes of different colors from the filters. The RGB exposures have to balance to neutral so a test shot of a grey card might test balance the filters.

  • George McWilliams

    May 1, 2012 09:36 am

    Re waterfalls. Use tripod. Get 2 old fashioned linear polarizers. Stack these on front of camera. Turn one until you get the amount of light you require. Use a cable release or remoteyUse Linears have been given up because they may interfere with digital camera light metering and focusing. Linear polarizers are less expensive and more effective at darkening skies or removing reflections from ponds, cars windows, store windows. A red car with blue reflected sky suddenly becomes 'way more red when the sky reflection disappears as you turn the polarizer. Best advice is try a linear on your camera to see if focus or autoexposure are deeply disturbed by the filter. Crossed polarizers at extreme give a purplish shift but 1 second exposures in daylight are easily obtained and color is good. A check on polarizer type is look through one off camera at its reflection in a mirror. A linear looks dark but you can see through it. A circular is black and you cannot see through it. I have used linears on a Nikon D90 and on a Fuji S100fs with good results.

  • Joe gee

    September 1, 2011 04:37 pm

    Nice article. I'm going to Yellowstone next week, hopefully I don't mess it up :-(

  • Josh Knap

    August 26, 2011 05:09 am

    I just returned from a backpacking trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. There were many great waterfalls to photograph.

    If you follow the link, you can see some of my favorite from the Presque Isle River.

    http://discoveringthefocalpoint.blogspot.com/2011/08/to-finish-presque-isle-river.html

  • Terry

    August 11, 2011 01:15 pm

    Fantastic waterfall shots! I always love the look of silky smooth water falling over a cliff. Thanks for your advice.

    For more tips on waterfall photography, check out a few at Geeat Photography Tips.

  • Hendrik

    May 11, 2011 12:41 am

    Maybe the person just did not write what he/she meant.

    The fact is that one has to make a SLOWER shutter speed with a SMALLER Aperture opening to keep the amount of light correct but not freeze the movement of the water.

  • Sam Mak

    May 10, 2011 08:39 pm

    Just read the tip on shooting waterfalls. Here's what I saw - "increasing the shutter speed is that it increases the amount of light that gets into your camera". I thought increasing the shutter speed means, for example, from 1/30 to 1/125. Wouldn't that REDUCE the amount of light going into the camera?

    Read more: http://www.digital-photography-school.com/waterfall-digital-photography#ixzz1Lwd3Y8QT

  • Jaydeee

    May 3, 2011 09:52 pm

    Using a ND400 filter (10 stop filter) can help to take ultra long shutter speeds without blowing out the image.

  • tempo dulu

    April 12, 2011 12:04 pm

    Nice tips - a filter is a great idea. Also the best time is very early in the morning!

  • rafimarkus

    April 9, 2011 02:36 pm

    this is a truly great article by a great teacher with invaluable experience and insight.
    thanks darren.

  • Hendrik

    March 28, 2011 05:36 am

    Hi Melissa, excellent photo`s made by the very excellent compositions.

    If you want to join the Nature Photographers Network just contact me.

  • Shuaib

    March 24, 2011 03:29 pm

    Nice tips!!

  • Darrell

    March 24, 2011 11:24 am

    I you want a chance to take some fantastic pictures of waterfalls, and cascading white water rapids, take your next vacation to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. I travel there at least twice a year, just for the numerous beautiful waterfalls in the park, plus the variety of wild flora and fauna. The cabin we rent has black bears coming on the deck every night.

  • melissa

    March 24, 2011 04:42 am

    I got my first oppty to take waterfall pics in January this year. So much fun-experimenting with shutter speed and apert. this was in N. Carolina.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/cTYjRgnFVNQym5I3J-AMag?feat=directlink
    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/QO46rC9tco8yoIu400vEHQ?feat=directlink

  • Walter

    March 17, 2011 12:03 pm

    Absolutely amazing tips & examples!!
    Thank you for sharing this tips!!

  • Martin Gallagher

    March 12, 2011 10:18 am

    Some very handy tips here.... I tried this a week or so ago using Tv mode, and although the water blurred, the pics were very overexposed....so I'll try again now.... I'm new to photography, using a Canon SX20 IS at the moment, but I will be upgrading to a DSLR soon.... I learn loads from this website, thanks!

  • charles

    March 12, 2011 08:33 am

    A shot from the Daintree Rainforest. . .

    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150148196616477&set=a.10150148194241477.335840.131592891476

  • Rob

    March 12, 2011 03:34 am

    Another great topic and goes quite well with the article featured not long ago on slow shutter speed, "1/20 sec" I think it was.

    Everyone has their preferences as to go slow or fast shutter speed here, but I like the idea of switching it up for various waterfalls and see what different effects you can get. I'm a firm believer in spending a fair bit of time with a scene and take lots of shots, as long as the family isn't yarding on your shirt asking you to keep up on your walk, lol.

  • Tenyse Dark

    March 11, 2011 11:35 am

    Great tips, by far waterfalls are my most favourite things to take photos of :) heres one i took at Mount Tambourine near where i live in australia :)[eimg url='http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sacred-Earth-Photographics/192082247479941#!/photo.php?fbid=193272747360891&set=a.193272654027567.42417.192082247479941&theater' title='photo.php?fbid=193272747360891&set=a.193272654027567.42417.192082247479941&theater']

  • Zain Abdullah

    March 11, 2011 04:14 am

    Thanks for the interesting and informative tips. Waterfall is indeed an interesting subject to capture.

    Malaysia with its vast rain forest has plenty of waterfalls. A few samples of Malaysian waterfalls.

    [eimg url='http://zain.zenfolio.com/img/s3/v26/p92130951-3.jpg' title='p92130951-3.jpg']

    [eimg url='http://zain.zenfolio.com/img/s6/v5/p634105671-3.jpg' title='p634105671-3.jpg']

    [eimg url='http://zain.zenfolio.com/img/s5/v4/p125988735-3.jpg' title='p125988735-3.jpg']

  • Hendrik

    March 6, 2011 06:00 am

    When I browsed through the article I though "OH NOT AGAIN" ..

    The first 2 examples are so unnatural as to make one sick..... :-o

    The 3rd one is OK-ish and the 4th says absolutely NOTHING :-(

    The 5th is excellent !!!!!!

    ..and the example from Scott is excellent in so far as that that type of view is very rare.

    Waterfalls that has to look like milk. Blurred to kingdom come but then.....

    The following paragraph which won ME over.

    Don’t Become Obsessed with Blurred Water

    The effect of silky smooth moving water in your shots is difficult to resist but don’t let it become the only type of waterfall image that you capture. Try taking some shots with ultra fast shutter speeds also. This can especially be a powerful technique on raging waterfalls where there is lots of spray and explosive splashes. The other impact of faster shutter speeds is that you’ll need to use larger apertures which means narrow depth of field which will bring a whole new impact to your shots.........

  • Paul

    March 5, 2011 08:13 am

    Thanks for this one, I enjoyed reading it. We have plenty of rivers here in Devon.

  • Gregg

    March 5, 2011 01:24 am

    @Davesworld. Here is one of my HDR images of a waterfall in Illinois. It was a slow trickle that day do the fall was not that impressive. I shot on a tripod and took 3 images at different exposures. Processed the HDR in Picturnaut and final touches in Photoshop Elements. [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/14481769@N04/4988211417/' title='Cascade Falls' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4108/4988211417_e7ae8071dd.jpg']

  • Edward Cruz

    March 4, 2011 03:05 am

    I have a few waterfall pics I took from a meet up in Miami. The picture was taken at Fairchild Gardens in Miami, FL.

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecruz0421/5455191228/' title='_DSC0022' url='http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5093/5455191228_50f58a78db.jpg']

  • Mei Teng

    March 4, 2011 12:56 am

    Thanks for tips. I usually shoot waterfall or bodies of water during low light (either in the late evening or early dawn) using AV mode.

  • LeonP

    March 3, 2011 02:24 pm

    This photo of Comet Falls on Mt. Ranier appears to be animated, at least to my eyes and brain. Something about it tricks the brain into thinking it is sees water cascading down the face. It was captured accidentally. Does anyone know how to do it intentionally? I would love to conjure up a way of applying such an optical illusion to other landscapes and even portraits. [eimg url='Pictures' title='table>']

  • Derek Beattie

    March 3, 2011 11:48 am

    @ Davesworld, here is a link to a bracketed 5 exposure shot which has then had a little HDR processing.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/derek-francis-photography/5139111513/

    I usually take a test shot then rely on a slow shutter speed about 1 second, high f stop F22 and low ISO 100, am thinking of trying an ND filter to see what the results are like.

    Couple of other shots from within the Galloway Forest Park in Southwest Scotland.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/derek-francis-photography/5139675202/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/derek-francis-photography/5429700008/

  • davesworld

    March 3, 2011 04:16 am

    I love these shots. Is there some HDR effect in the first two? I was under the impression that it was difficult to use HDR on moving subjects. I would love to hear from some people who have successfully used HDR on waterfalls since they are almost always high contrast areas with bright water and dark shadows and foliage. Any suggestions or examples would be most welcome.
    Thanks for the great article.

  • davesworld

    March 3, 2011 03:53 am

    I have some experience with waterfall photography, and I have to agree that with large crashing waterfalls, fast shutter speeds are the way to go. It really brings out the drama and force.
    I have a question though, I am just beginning to get into HDR, and I noticed that the first picture in the article almost looks HDR because of the balance in the shadows and highlights. I find that waterfalls are especially tricky lighting in that they tend to be very high contrast (white water vs. dark shadows of leaves and undergrowth). Has anyone experimented with HDR with moving water? If so how did it turn out? How did the layering of the bracketed images affect the motion of the water? I'd love to see some examples, or even a feature on realistic HDR for moving subjects.
    Thanks, and great article as always!
    Here are two of the best I've got:
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/57722420@N02/5312990549/' title='IMG_8075' url='http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5082/5312990549_38e63a7fe1_z.jpg']
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/57722420@N02/5492252388/' title='IMG_9265c' url='http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5291/5492252388_fbd48e75d7.jpg']

  • ScottC

    March 3, 2011 03:36 am

    Great photos included in this article, looks like a bit of HDR in few of them.

    One angle of the Rhinefalls in Switzerland, flowing at 600 cm per second:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4725224374/

  • neil

    March 3, 2011 02:06 am

    great shots!

    this is mine from costa rica

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50432810@N05/5230534798/in/set-72157625397482381/

  • Richard Guy Briggs

    March 3, 2011 01:11 am

    I have found it much easier to photograph waterfalls when they aren't moving anymore. :)
    [eimg url='http://tricolour.net/photos//2011/02/26/med/15-14-15i1.jpg' title='15-14-15i1.jpg']
    [eimg url='http://tricolour.net/photos//2011/02/26/med/15-02-55i1.jpg' title='15-02-55i1.jpg']
    This is Rideau Falls in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada just before they start dynamiting the river above it to break up the ice to prevent flooding and bridge damage. That white mound in the foreground is about 10m (30') high. That odd green machine in the middle of all that ice is an icebreaker. I also have photos and video of the dynamiting and icebreaking from previous years.

  • Em Wall

    March 2, 2011 10:19 pm

    Nice article and amazing examples! Being a kayaker, I'm constantly surrounded by waterfalls and rapids. I'll bear these tips in mind next time.

    Here's a shot of an awesome waterfall in Uganda...

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilywall/5032268543/' title='Anton and Doug scout out the drop' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4154/5032268543_5352fae506.jpg']

  • Vijay

    March 2, 2011 08:15 pm

    Helpful tips there....

    I think a ND filter works wonders for waterfalls..

    Here is one of mine ---

    http://www.vijaysphotoverse.com/archives/1787

  • Vijay

    March 2, 2011 08:14 pm

    Helpful tips there....

    I think a ND filter works wonders for waterfalls..

    Here are some of mine ---

    http://www.vijaysphotoverse.com/archives/1787

  • Tomasz Worek

    March 2, 2011 07:52 pm

    Waterfalls are really charming things to shoot!

    Roethbahfall in Germany:
    http://www.tomaszworek.com/gallery-alpy_berchtesgaden-IMGP8876b-en.html
    http://www.tomaszworek.com/gallery-alpy_berchtesgaden-IMGP8854-en.html

    Wimbachklamm in Germany:
    http://www.tomaszworek.com/gallery-alpy_berchtesgaden-IMGP8324b-en.html

    Szklarki Waterfall in Poland:
    http://www.tomaszworek.com/gallery-karkonosze-IMGP6911b-en.html

  • Alastair Moore

    March 2, 2011 05:25 pm

    I'm currently in New Zealand on holiday and have been shooting some waterfalls. Got this one a couple of days ago shot at 1/320 of a second.. completely the opposite end of what I normally shoot waterfalls at!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/alastairmoorephotography/5485225600/

  • Gregg

    March 2, 2011 02:44 pm

    Kind of a slow trickle the day I visited Mathiessen State Park in Illinois. But I thought the combination of a couple of techniques helped bring out the waterfall. A 3-shot HDR and slower shutter speed.[eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/14481769@N04/4988211417/' title='Cascade Falls' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4108/4988211417_e7ae8071dd.jpg']

  • Leon

    March 2, 2011 12:15 pm

    I attach a shot a friend took of Comet Falls on Mt. Ranier. Unless your eyes are different from mine, the falls should look animated to you. The water actually cascades down the face. It is an optical illusion, of course. I am trying to understand what is at work here. I would like to duplicate the effect in other landscapes or even portrait photography. Has anyone worked with this effect?

    [[eimg url='https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/_L-D4tdoxuiM/TW2YJYQsKyI/AAAAAAAACSo/IB94RJPkURM/s512/smallcometfalls_edited-1.jpg' title='smallcometfalls_edited-1.jpg']

  • Trudy

    March 2, 2011 09:37 am

    That last black and white photograph is a dream. Beautiful work and helpful tips.

  • Michael Augspurger

    March 2, 2011 09:10 am

    I definitely agree that waterfalls taken with fast shutter speeds are very interesting. They add a very different view of the waterfall than does a long shutter speed. I've taken pictures of both and I both for different reasons.

  • stephen

    March 2, 2011 08:38 am

    I liked this article - I have been trying to capture waterfalls for a while and have switched back and forth between slowing down the shutter speed and finally settling on aperture priority. This works in most instances, but not all. Adding a polarizer on top of neutral density filter also helps.
    This was taken using an aperture priority setting of iso 200, f/16, 1/10.[eimg url='http://c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I0000i7JzEubpbVM/s/500/I0000i7JzEubpbVM.jpg'' title='I0000i7JzEubpbVM.jpg'']

    I will keep shooting and experimenting as I go...but I have come to realize that sometimes "blurring" is more dependent upon the shot that you are trying to capture after all, isn't it?
    Stephen
    http://www.eselteephotography.com

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer

    March 2, 2011 08:19 am

    Very detailed tips for waterfall photography. I do wish I there were waterfalls close to where I live as I am a big fan of the slow shutter speed cotton candy water look. Last year I had a chance to visit a spring in a more north-central part of Florida that had a waterfall. I made it available as a free desktop photo calendar:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/6/1/free-desktop-calendar-wallpaper-florida-fern-waterfall-june.html

    I still want to invest in a neutral density filter to photograph the Gulf of Mexico though.

  • Vishal Modak

    March 2, 2011 08:06 am

    I photographed a lot of waterfalls & cascades during my trip to Smoky Mountains last fall. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the silky-milky effect of gushing water. I took all my shots using a polarizer filter. Cloudy weather seems to be best for shooting waterfalls as opposed to a bright sunny day...

    Here is entire set of waterfalls & cascades..
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/whizvish/sets/72157625659623032/

  • LeGrange

    March 2, 2011 07:47 am

    I like to go manual when photographing waterfalls. Much better control over shutter, ISO and aperture. Used my polarized sunglasses toe drop the shutter from 1/40 to 1/15.

  • Andreas - 16th Ave

    March 2, 2011 07:22 am

    I have always wanted to try this out! The pictures in this post are absolutely astonishing and it's all very well said and explained! I can't wait to get started on stuff like this myself - I just need to buy my first TRIPOD! :)

  • aman singh

    January 10, 2011 04:27 am

    good stuff, very informative. i will have to get out and experiment. I got the best subject in my back yard - niagara falls.

  • Jane

    January 7, 2011 09:58 pm

    I am afraid I do not like waterfalls that have been slow shuttered - rather than create movement I think it takes movement away. You just get a smooth, creamy and totally unrealistic blur of water without the swirls or the different colours the movement creates or the splashes for that matter. Cannot understand the obsession with smoothed out water that looks like thick cream whether that be waterfalls or photographs of the sea, lakes or rivers.

  • Jane

    January 7, 2011 09:54 pm

    I do not like waterfalls or any water for that matter all smoothed out - far from adding movement I think it takes it away - no circular motions in the water as it would be if left natural.

  • matty

    December 10, 2010 05:01 am

    I enjoy capturing waterfalls and most times, I get the water to blur just right and the waterfall by itself looks good. However the landscape surrounding it is very dull and as a result, the overall picture is not the best. Most times, I end up adjusting the saturation of the surrounding areas using photoshop. Is there someway I can get this right without post processing?

  • Brian

    November 5, 2010 07:38 am

    Some wonderful places you guys have visited and the falls are great.
    Maybe its a generation thing but in the mags I read, and various blogs, there does seem to be something of an obsession with the "artistic" blurring of the water rather than the accurate capture of what the eye sees.
    I can certainly see a case for the slower shutter speed where there is little water coming over the fall as this will increase the apparrent volume. I fully accept that it takes all tastes and what better hobby than photograph to satisfy these

  • DP Shots

    October 28, 2010 12:29 am

    I have to agree with you on this one. We can hardly see any waterfall photo that's isn't slow shutter.

  • Guy

    October 18, 2010 02:47 pm

    I have another suggestion that I just realized after looking at my waterfall photos I have shot this summer. I would suggest taking multiple photos on a tripod with faster shutter speeds which will freeze the grass, flowers, trees. Then shoot a slower shutter speed to get the creamy water effect. You will need to adjust the ISO or aperture to do this. When you get back home use Photoshop to blend the images together. Watch the focus point, 1/3 into the image from the bottom.

  • Matt Herrington

    August 25, 2010 10:22 pm

    I'm just on the way to inglton falls in north yorkshire, so your tips will soon be proved. This is a great guide to waterfall photography and the photo examples are awsome. Thank you.

  • Nichole

    August 8, 2010 01:41 pm

    This is great! My husband just bought me a new DSLR as a wedding gift, and now that I've learned the camera better, my next photo project is going to be at Virgin Falls in TN so I found this site at the right time. I'm new to DPS and am loving the tips and posts! I haven't taken photography classes since high school, and I am so excited to be getting back into it as a fun hobby! I hope to come home with some great waterfall shots in a couple weeks.

  • eifion hughes

    July 23, 2010 03:32 am

    Great Tips for anyone just starting out in Digital SLR Photography. I have printed out the instructions and put them in My Camera Case.
    Here is a shot I took last year only days after getting my first DSLR.It is Aber Falls in North Wales.

    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/38070888
    Keep up the excellent work Darren.
    Regards. Eifion.

  • Glog

    June 3, 2010 09:24 pm

    Some great tips here. Keep up the good work :)

  • Scott

    May 27, 2010 05:08 am

    Another good article with some great tips. Polarizers and neutral density filters are key for getting the slower shutter speeds. [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottmichaels/2853928351/' title='Manmade Waterfall' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3156/2853928351_a3384841bb.jpg']

  • Chelsea(CLR Photography)

    January 6, 2010 02:16 pm

    awwww i love waterfalls i want to get some really cool ones. im still figuring out my canon rebel xti to do that

  • shmuxel

    December 20, 2009 10:26 pm

    I took this pic in Nice, France, on a waterfall in the 'Chateau', with my *shudder* mobile phone camera! I think it looks quite good...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/shmuxel/3441995587/

  • Naomi

    November 16, 2009 12:49 pm

    Where is your focal point when you have a slow shutter speed on a waterfall?

  • Ashutosh

    October 29, 2009 08:47 pm

    Awesome tips. Learn t and now going to try it out :)

  • Paul Bates Nature Stock Photography

    September 19, 2009 02:00 am

    Thanks for all of the great tips!

    I'll have to put some of these into use since waterfalls are what I love to search for on road trips.

    Paul Bates Nature Photography

  • annamir

    August 5, 2009 02:35 am

    Feel free to view mine here, and would realy love to hear your C&C :)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/annamir/3422189397/

  • annamir

    August 5, 2009 02:33 am

    Wow! Lovely tutorials!
    Thanks for this great sharing :)

  • K Rook

    June 25, 2009 07:11 pm

    We are off to Iguazu falls later in the year great tips - which lens would you reccommend ( I use a sony a700)

  • peter k

    April 10, 2009 06:18 am

    I know these tips and I use them, mostly with ND filters, They work fine even with a small sensor like the one from the Fuji S100fs (1/1.6), and they work excelent with an APS-C sensor, but always at low ISO because of the long exposures. I haven't thought about useing the polariser, but it sounds very logical, so I'm gonna try it. Thanks for the tip Mr. Rowse !

  • Travel and Landscape Photography

    March 20, 2009 11:41 am

    Nice article, Darren!

    I've just published an article on the same subject: 7 Effective Waterfall Photography Tips.

  • ForestWander

    February 23, 2009 03:50 am

    These waterfall pictures are simply awesome.

    I just happened across your site.

    This ia a really nice website.

    And it has given me some great Ideas.

    Thanks for all of your work in putting this together.

    ForestWander
    Nature Photography

  • EmergingAire

    February 20, 2009 01:30 pm

    Thanks Darren,what a great tut.I live in the Mt. Lake region of West Virginia,USA with
    lots of opportunities to work through these ideas.Thanks to all the commenters also.Again great tips.

  • Chris Wadkins

    February 20, 2009 04:06 am

    He is right on the money. I do lots of photography of waterfalls and some of the best pics I have taken take time to get right. I will shoot 100 shots of one waterfall, switching through diff shutter speeds and playing with the iso and focus a little, mostly on iso 100.

  • Paul Drumm

    February 20, 2009 01:50 am

    I was lucky enough to take a few pictures of a lovely waterfall in the orchid garden in the Singapore Botanic Gardens a few months back!

    Here's my best shot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/drummp2/3089966759

  • Joel

    February 19, 2009 07:37 pm

    I can't hardly wait to go to Bacolod here in Philippines to see and shoot waterfalls. And thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  • Dino

    February 18, 2009 10:44 pm

    Some of the examples are so AWESOME!!! Thanks for the explanation.

  • Julie

    February 18, 2009 09:56 am

    All right I did it! Today I bought a polarizing filter for my Olympus SWD 12-60mm lens. Can't wait!

  • Allan

    February 18, 2009 09:46 am

    Perfect timing Darren, I've recently found a waterfall a few miles from my hometown in the UK. (there's not too many round these parts) I will be investigating it with a view to using it as a backdrop for some model shoots. These tips will come in quite handy.

  • Gayle

    February 17, 2009 11:12 pm

    Thanks Darren for your wonderful tips & info. I do have a polorizing filter and can't wait to try some falls shots. Could possibly get up to Springbrook National Park this weekend. :)

  • Akshay

    February 17, 2009 05:08 pm

    @Steve
    Thanks a lot for the info mate. I looked at your photos and they are certainly excellent. :)

  • Julie

    February 17, 2009 11:13 am

    Okay I have to get a polarizing filter before I head out a town. I am off to visit Manoa Falls, Oahu in one week and this post was perfect timing. Thank you! Looking forward to some great waterfall shots!

  • Steve Berardi

    February 17, 2009 10:21 am

    @Akshay - If you use a polarizer filter AND shoot the photo in low light (either at sunrise/sunset or on an overcast day), then you'll definitely be able to get a 2-3 second exposure, even at f/8.0. The polarizer doesn't just help you get a longer shutter, but more importantly, it cuts the reflections (both on the water, and on wet rocks). These reflections occur in pretty much all lighting conditions, so I've never shot a waterfall without a polarizer. They also help bring out the greens/yellows in the photo.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the speed of the water flow. If it's flowing really fast, like it was in this photo:

    http://flickr.com/photos/steveberardi/3249194237/

    then, you don't need a fast shutter speed (I took that photo with a 1.3 second exposure). but, with slower waterfalls, you'll need a longer shutter, like in this photo (6 second exposure):

    http://flickr.com/photos/steveberardi/3104754231/

  • Akshay

    February 17, 2009 12:27 am

    The silky water flow shots take my breath away. I could never produce such effects because reducing the shutter speed made my shots overexposed. My camera (Sony DSC H50) does not support smaller aperture (can't increase F Number above F8.0). The links below are the two results in a shadow of mountains (F8 & 1/20 seconds).

    So my question is: Would Polarizing/ND Filter could really work in F8 aperture or Should I just switch to DSLR?

    Thanks

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ignoto_someoneski/3229155816/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ignoto_someoneski/2570048928/

  • LisaNewton

    February 16, 2009 11:52 pm

    @Steve Thanks for the heads up. I'm fairly new to the LA area and still learning all the great things to do here. I haven't investigated the Angeles National Forest yet, but plan to get there soon. By then I'll have my tripod, so maybe I go there first.

    So many pictures, so little time.........................:)

    BTW, I love the falls picture you linked to.

  • Floriantanplan

    February 16, 2009 10:20 pm

    Good topic with interesting tips and pleasant examples !

    Whenever you shoot on a tripod, I would also recommend to lock the mirror (especially if you shoot with rather short exposure, up to a few seconds. This becomes unnecessary for very long exposures, like 20 seconds and more). And something very important : if you plan to go for a waterfall shooting, take something to clean your lens (either filters or paper) ... clean lens produce better picture ;-)

    I personally use an ND400 filter, sometimes with a polarizer to increase time exposure, but you're definitely right, long exposure should not be the rule, and I am tending to realize it right now (lately) :-)

    Here are a few waterfall pictures I took in my region in Switzerland (great place for nature in general) :
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fpoulin/847344474/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fpoulin/2607946689/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fpoulin/2347862959/

    And a few more on my FlickrStream, if you are interested !

    Best,
    Florian.

  • Richard

    February 16, 2009 07:38 pm

    I love waterfall shots and take them whenever I can - nice article with some usefull tips

  • Steve Berardi

    February 16, 2009 02:58 pm

    LisaNewton: don't you live in LA? there's lots of waterfalls around here! check out Angeles National Forest, there's a bunch.. they're nothing like hawaii or Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, but there are still some pretty cool ones:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/steveberardi/3104766913/in/set-72157611218454620/

    Another thing to watch out for when you're photographing waterfalls is balanced light. If you look at the third photo in this article, there's an overexposed section in the upper left.. sure, you can probably fix this in photoshop, but you'll still have unbalanced light (resulting from the sun shining on part of the scene, while the rest is in the shade). So, either wait until the entire waterfall is in the shade, or shoot during an overcast sky (best results), or shoot during sunrise/sunset (second best results).

  • MeiTeng

    February 16, 2009 01:59 pm

    Thanks for the tips! Love the photos.

  • Elizabeth Richardson

    February 16, 2009 01:01 pm

    Thanks so much for these great photography tips Darren.

    I've been getting the RSS updates for a few weeks now and the information you give is priceless and VERY much appreciated.

  • dcclark

    February 16, 2009 12:07 pm

    Marc, I need fewer reasons to do dangerous stuff like going out into dark woods after dark. And now you just gave me another one. Curse you. Curse you, I say!!

    Oh, and -- very nice photo. I guarantee I will try it as soon as we melt here.

  • Marc Chisholm

    February 16, 2009 11:48 am

    I always use Neutral Density filters. I don't go anywhere without them. Also, I have some shots of flowing water taken after the sun sets. This allows for even longer exposures. Here's one taken after the sun set: http://i310.photobucket.com/albums/kk419/marcchisholm/CSC_0344.jpg.

  • jay

    February 16, 2009 11:02 am

    Moving water and long exposure shots are always pretty cool. I haven't experimented with waterfalls, but I want to try it out for sure!

  • LisaNewton

    February 16, 2009 10:50 am

    Thanks for the info, dcclark, I guess an early morning at the beach will be in my near future. I'll try to watch the weather reports for a windy one so the surf will be coming in.

  • dcclark

    February 16, 2009 10:41 am

    LisaNewton: Actually, this effect can be AWESOME on waves. You need a much longer shutter speed (10-15 seconds, or even more). The result is that water looks a lot like mist. I've seen some amazing photos of tidal pools and rocky shorelines with a "mist" of water around them.

    I can't find the page right now, but I swear Ken Rockwell had some awesome long exposure water examples. I have tried this on the Big Lake (Superior), but I've never gotten the effect right when I've tried.

  • LisaNewton

    February 16, 2009 09:33 am

    Not too many waterfalls around here, at least that I'm aware of, but lots of waves. Am I incorrect in assuming this will also work with waves? My tripod arrives next week, so I'll try this effect asap.

    I love experimenting with my camera; my only concern is missing the shot I want while changing the settings. It's not an easy choice. I think I need to just slow down a bit, and have patience (not one of my biggest virtues..........................:)

  • dcclark

    February 16, 2009 09:27 am

    Good advice. I really wish I'd read this two years ago, before I spent an entire summer exploring waterfalls in my area (Here's a link, but the photos are extremely not special). I wasn't thinking about photography very much at the time -- it was just documentary, nothing artistic, so the photos ended up being pretty bad. It's amazing how much better you can get at photography by just thinking about it and reading a little!

    (I got better: here are a few of my newer waterfalls.)

  • Tom B.

    February 16, 2009 09:03 am

    I need to go back to Maui and spend a couple of days driving to Hana, hitting all the waterfalls along the way. Lots of opportunities to practice these tips, in all kinds of situations.

  • Austin_HXC

    February 16, 2009 08:19 am

    Great tips and I love the examples.

    But instead of constantly switching between Av and Tv mode, and fidgeting with ISO,
    why don't you just swtich to Manual?

  • Frog

    February 16, 2009 08:14 am

    Waterfalls were made for long exposure, truely breathtaking!

  • Lee Milthorpe

    February 16, 2009 07:56 am

    Fantastic tips and absolutely breathtaking examples!

    Water always makes really pretty photographs, especially when done right!

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