Photographing Waterfalls: Tips for Success

When you’re standing in front of a waterfall, you are taking in an entire experience, more than simply the visual aspects of it. In order to capture that feeling when photographing waterfalls, you will need to know some tips and techniques for how to photograph waterfalls.

Photographing waterfalls has some technical, such as how to convey the motion of the water falling in what is essentially a static or unmoving medium, the still photograph. Here are some waterfall photography tips that you can use with most cameras from entry level to advanced. 

Choose a Slow Shutter Speed

The number one reason why so many waterfall pictures don’t adequately convey the feel of the experience of seeing the waterfall in person is because the camera shutter speed was too fast. A key tool to control the final image when photographing waterfalls is to slow down the shutter. 

For most general photography, a fast enough shutter speed to allow for hand held exposures without image blur due to camera motion is second nature to photographers of all levels. But the problem with that hand holdable shutter speed when photographing waterfalls is that it freezes the motion of the water actually falling and makes the image look unnatural.

Frozen moments of time with suspended drops and masses of water is not how we experience a waterfall in real life. Therefore, introducing some motion blur is not only acceptable, but is actually extremely important.

How slow of a shutter speed is necessary will be determined by several variables, including the exposure of the scene, how big or small is the waterfall, how far are you from the moving water, and how much motion blur you want to incorporate. Some scenes look great with just a little bit of blur, others look great with that super smooth look. 

It will also depend on whether or not you’re making use of the next tips for photographing waterfalls.

Support the Camera

Unless you have a camera with 5-axis image stabilization and exceptional hand holding technique, you will need some sort of camera support for photographing waterfalls such as a tripod, a monopod, a clamp, or a bean bag. 

While a monopod is excellent for a lot of situations, taking advantage of all your options when photographing waterfalls pretty necessitates a tripod. If you are hiking to your chosen waterfall, the new carbon fiber tripods offer excellent stability with extremely light weight, though they do cost a bit more than aluminum tripods.

Even with a good tripod at the ready, you will still need to use some other techniques for sharp exposures, such as using a remote release or perhaps mirror lock up on a DSLR. This is a good place to point out how much much I love my new mirror less camera, but you don’t need to buy a new camera just for photographing waterfalls. 

Find the Right Waterfall

Not all waterfalls are created equal. While I actually have a few small waterfalls in city parks within walking distance of my home, the truly majestic waterfalls take some effort to reach. And finding a waterfall with no apparent man made elements nearby can be a real challenge.

You might find yourself wanting a guide to help you reach those outstanding waterfalls in out of the way areas of the world. Color Texture Photo Tours has expeditions in the USA and in other areas such as Costa Rica that you can join.