How To Photograph Waterfalls

G’day Travelers! After spending a some time recently exploring my local waterfalls, I thought I’d put together another travel photography tip blog post, with a few of my tips on how to photograph waterfalls.

I try not to go a photograph the same waterfalls all the time, but if I’m somewhere that I know has a particularly good one I’ll make an effort to seek it out and get some good photos. In Australia we’re pretty lucky to have some stunning waterfalls all over the country. I’m sure you’ll see the odd waterfall photo pop up in my travels in 2016.

Anyway, here are my go to tips and starting points for taking photos of waterfalls.

Somersby Falls, NSW, Australia

Steady Platform

I know I said the same thing in my Firework’s tips, but with these long exposure type photos it’s very important to have a steady platform for your camera.

Again, ideally you’ll have a tripod to set up. That said you don’t necessarily need one, but I’d highly recommend it, look for rocks or tree stumps or something that you’ll to able to set up your camera on that is solid and wont move during the shots. A steady camera will allow you to drag your shutter (use a slow shutter speed) to showcase the moving water while everything else remains sharp.

Shutter Speed

As I just mentioned, your shutter speed is whats going to be key to getting those milky water flows. Which makes the difference between an average photo and a really good one.

Ideally you want to try to get your shutter to at least half a second, but water will start to motion blur at 1/60th. Then it’s just a matter of varying the shutter speed to achieve the result you are looking for. The longer the shutter is open (slower shutter speed) the more motion blur that is introduced to the water.


Now that you are using a slow shutter speed you’ll need to make sure your photo doesn’t over expose (when everything turns white and blows out). There are a couple of ways to get your shutter speed slow while not over exposing the photo. Keeping your ISO as low as possible (100 or lower) and getting your aperture as high (narrow) as possible (f11 or higher) will certainly help, but on a bright sunny day you might be limited with how far they can go.

So to add some more flexibility to how long you can keep your shutter open, you’ll need to look at filters. There are two types of filters that can help with waterfall photography. A Polarizing filter and an Neutral Density filter.

A Polarizing filter does two things. It’ll help reduce reflections in the water, helping it look clearer. But it also reduces the light that comes into your lens by roughly one stop. I’m not going to go into the details of what one stop of light is, that way to complicated for this blog post. All you need to know is the less light means a darker photo, which allows you to keep your shutter open longer to compensate.

Neutral Density, or ND Filters for short, also reduce the amount of light getting into your lens, but will wont effect the glare or reflections. However ND Filters come in different darknesses (or stops) blocking more and more light the higher the number of the filter. Again allowing you to properly expose your photo while having much longer shutter speeds.

One Last Thing…

If your really want to take great photos, particularly of waterfalls. You will need to learn how to use your camera in Manual mode. You can use Shutter/Time Value priority to get some good photos of waterfalls, but being able to really control your settings to get the photo you want will give you a much better result than anything the camera will try to do automatically.

It’s well worth ready your camera manual or take a lesson and learn how to get your camera into manual mode and how to use the settings to your advantage.

Somersby Falls, NSW, Australia

That wraps up my tips on how to photograph waterfalls. Let me know what you think of these photography tips in the comments below. If you are looking for more travel specific photography tips, check out this blog post.

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About the Author: Rhys Vandersyde

Traveler, Photographer, Content Creator. I've spent the last 10 years exploring all over the world, but there is still plenty more to see.

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