Waterfall Photography Tips - Rethinking how you take waterfall photos!

I have pointed my camera towards a lot of waterfalls over the past several years and in that time, I have learned that each one is like a snowflake, unique. They are such great examples of the beauty we find in nature and the power of water. It’s definitely one of my favorite subjects to photograph. Although, like the ever changing waters in a river, my views on photographing subjects like waterfalls has changed and evolved. I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned to help you rethink what an image of a waterfall can be. If you enjoy this, please help support this page by sharing it and/or leaving a comment. I would greatly appreciate it!


Take in your surroundings

There’s nothing that quite beats the first glimpse you get of a waterfall. If you’re anything like me, you get tunnel vision and go straight towards it. But when it comes to photography I encourage you to stop and take a look around, maybe even explore the area. A waterfall is just one piece of the whole landscape. Celebrate it by incorporating what you can of your surroundings. Look at the rocks below or the trees surrounding the waterfall, whatever helps paint a picture of the environment. Should you crouch low by the river or climb a hill? This is all just to get you thinking about opening up the scene and showing the environment.

Using the rock to help create a more interesting image and frame the waterfall.                                                       Pulling away from the main ‘falls’ can sometimes lead to a more interesting composition.

Whats the light like?

Planning ahead and knowing how the light shifts on your subject is something that has been an enormous help to me. It’s especially important when it comes to photographing waterfalls. What I always try to find out first is when the waterfall is out of the sun. Basically, when is it in shadow or is it a cloudy day? That helps you get an even exposure throughout the image because light hitting water can easily become way overexposed. It’s also important for slowing down your shutter speed, which will be discussed further in the next tip below. After finding out that information, maybe look into other potential factors like does a rainbow show up at certain times or when might light beams shine above the trees. You know what they say, knowledge is power.

What a horrible series of mistakes I made! Light hits directly on the falls.                                                                                                    The sun sets below the tree line casting Virgina Falls in shadow.

Slow it down and accessorize appropriately

Personally I’m a fan of what I call the ‘Silky Water Technique.’ It also has other names, but this is the name I go with. It smooths out the water and really shows the flow and movement of the water. To do this though, you need to bring the right gear. I recommend having at least a tripod and a camera where you can control the shutter speed. I would also recommend a shutter release, a polarizing filter and ND filter. With all this, your goal is to slow down your shutter speed so you can really smooth out the water. I have previously written about this in more detail and if you want to find out more click the link <here> to read my previous article.

BONUS: Put the camera away

You got some photos you're happy with? That’s awesome! Now put the camera away and connect with the subject. Take some time and just enjoy what the water has carved throughout the centuries. Don’t view nature only through a camera lens.