Waterfalls photography and photos of nature can evoke emotions and passion. While it’s easy to find stunning photos of waterfalls online, as a photographer you aspire to capture your own stunning pictures. So how do you go about taking beautiful waterfall pictures?
Well, for starters, I will have you know that it’s not as easy as it looks. First, whether you want to display stillness or motion of the water, you are faced with the challenges of capturing a dynamic object. To add to this, you are shooting in the water, either you or your camera is bound to get wet. Oh, and don’t forget the challenge of lighting.
Many photographers end up taking dark waterfall photos which in all honesty, does not do the scenery any justice. In short, if taking waterfall photos is something you want to master, there are some general tips and camera settings you must adhere to. It may be a tad difficult but it’s not impossible. I am here to help.
Waterfalls Photography Tip #1
Get your gear right and ready
The one thing you should never leave without when going to capture waterfalls is your tripod. This will give you the much-needed stability as you embark on your hunt for amazing waterfall photos. Also, ensure that your camera can shoot on manual as more often than not, you will need it.
The use of Neutral Density (ND) Lenses and a polarizing filter is usually controversial. While they are excellent at light control and eliminating reflection, they can also lead to a dull photo with a blurry sun in the background. If you are new to using these tools, your best bet is to time when the sun is not overhead the scenery. This means you should shoot at sunrise or sunset. You will be able to avoid the sun’s glare in your photo.
Waterfalls Photography Tip #2
Scout the area
The beauty of a waterfall picture other than great lighting is shooting from the best position. The last thing you want is to capture a white stream of water without the foreground. Shooting the fall from an angle as opposed to when standing in front of it will allow you to bring the picture to life. Therefore you should walk through the area before settling on the best location to set up. By doing this, you will have full control of the photo you end up with.
Waterfalls Photography Tip #3
Slow shutter speed is your ally
While fast shutter speed is great for accuracy and detail in photos, when it comes to waterfalls you want to keep it slow. Simply put, slow shutter speed leads to a smoother finish on the cascading water as opposed to a rugged, rough look.
It may take some time to find the right shutter speed once you set up so don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Start with a speed of 2 seconds and work your way to a silky-smooth waterfall photo.
Waterfalls Photography Tip #4
Small Aperture paired with low ISO
Being able to manipulate your aperture and ISO (and of course shutter speed) is the formula to taking exceptional photos. When it comes to waterfalls, you want to use a small aperture (or large f number) and low ISO.
Typically, a small aperture focuses on the subject matter blurring out the background hence the result is a much clearer photo as opposed to using a large aperture. Moreover, a small aperture results in longer shutter. If you are thinking of setting your camera to the smallest aperture and work with that, you will be in for a rude shock. Because the smallest aperture usually makes the object lose its sharpness. So once again, a little experimenting is called for here.
Lowering your ISO results in a series of events the major ones being a decrease in shutter speed (which is good in this case) and an increase in clarity and image quality. The lower the ISO the lesser the sensitivity to light hence noise in your photo is reduced. It’s as simple as that guys!
Waterfalls Photography Tip #5
Consider your Lenses.
Off the top of my head, if you set out to shoot waterfalls, there are two lenses you ought to consider; the wide-angle lens and telephoto lens. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the challenge of having water splash on your equipment. Pair this with the risk of being too close to the edge to get a good shot and you will understand why you need a telephoto lens.
Wide angle lenses are always recommended for shooting most landscapes including waterfalls. This will ensure the whole scenery fits in the frame and is highly recommended when shooting a narrow waterfall up close.
Waterfalls Photography Tip #6
Set your camera to manual mode
Shooting in manual especially for beginners can be quite intimidating but in this case, this is your best option. Why? You ask. While it is easier to shoot in aperture mode or for some, shutter priority mode, your aperture, ISO and shutter settings may not be at optimum for producing great results. By switching to manual mode, you have the freedom to manipulate these settings to your liking. It may require more tweaks than usual but it will be totally worth it in the end.
Expect a lot of adjusting and experimentation in the quest for a great waterfall photo so stay patient till you get the right shot. The falls are not going anywhere, take your time to get the right ISO, aperture and shutter speed. By mastering these three settings you are halfway through the journey of acing any photo shoot especially waterfalls. That said, bring your creativity with you and don’t be afraid to try new things. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have given you the key to conquering waterfall photography. Just follow the tips above, add a dash of confidence and creativity and voila, you have yourself amazing waterfall pics in no time.
When you’re about to take a trip into nature, consider reading our tips for landscape photography as well!