How To Photograph Waterfalls

Waterfall photography can be an exciting experience – you get to hike to the best spots to get the most amazing shots. But sometimes, you may return home and find that your images are not what you expected. 

How To Photograph Waterfalls

This is because waterfalls can be tricky to capture. Due to the moving water, it can be hard to demonstrate their real beauty in a photograph if you have not got the right settings. 

So, in this guide, we are going to give you all of the information that you need to take better pictures of waterfalls! 

The Best Camera Settings For Shooting Waterfalls

Waterfalls are great subjects for photography. You can play around with compositional elements, practice exposure techniques, and alter the shutter speed to get various results.


The purpose of ISO is to amplify the sensor, and make the images appear brighter. But, the camera sensor will amplify everything, including noise, which is why you end up seeing more noise on your images when you increase the ISO. 

Therefore, for these kinds of images, you want to keep the ISO as low as possible. So, choose to shoot when you have enough light so that you don’t have to boost the ISO when shooting. 

Shutter Speed

One of the most important factors when taking photographs of waterfalls is the shutter speed that you use. You will want to capture the natural movement of the water, so manipulating and altering the shutter speed can help you capture this motion in your images. 

Now, the speed you choose depends on the type of images that you want to create. If you want a smooth, milky sort of appearance on the water, then you will want to use a slow shutter speed. This can give the water a soft, silky appearance in the final result. 

If you want to capture some detail, then a faster shutter speed will suffice. Faster shutter speeds can make the water seem more tumultuous, powerful, or show the water crashing down, whereas slower shutter speeds make the water look more peaceful and flowing.

For a smooth look, you will want to use a very slow shutter speed, so you can start with around ⅙ of a second up to 2 seconds long. But, it depends on what image you want, and how fast the water is moving in your particular location. 

If you want to capture the detail, and freeze the motion of the water in time, then a shutter speed of around 1/25 seconds is a good place to start, then go faster until you find the right one.

Some waterfalls that have fast flowing water could even require a shutter speed of up to 1/1000th of a second.

Alternatively, you could try both- do a long exposure and a short exposure version, to see which image you prefer. 


The aperture setting is what will control the depth of field in your images. For wider apertures, you will need to use a low f-stop, which will give you a shallower depth of field. This is useful if you want to focus on a subject, and pull it out of the background. 

For narrow apertures, you will need to use a higher f-stop, to give you a deeper depth of field. This will ensure that your image is as sharp as can be, and will be detailed throughout the whole lens. 

Your aperture will depend on what sort of composition you are going for. If you want to capture the whole scene in front of you, then you can choose a setting of around f-16. For a shorter depth of field, make the aperture wide, and use an f-stop of about f-8 instead.

Top Tips For Shooting Waterfalls

Consider The Equipment You Will Need

It is always best to come prepared! Some of the best equipment for nature photography and for shooting waterfalls include a DSLR camera, a telephoto or wide lens, a tripod, and an L-bracket. 

Having a DSLR camera can ensure that you can alter the settings and prioritize which ones are best, while a wide lens or telephoto lens can help you create better compositions of the wider scene, and focus on the details of the water. 

A tripod is essential for shooting waterfalls, as this can help you maintain the shutter speed and avoid blur on long exposure images.

Finally, an L-bracket mounts to your camera and is shaped like an L, so that you can attach your camera to the tripod and move it around or change the orientation of the camera with ease. 

Always take what you think you may need. If you don’t end up using it, then that is fine- it is just better to have it than need it when you are in the middle of a forest! 

Try Various Compositions

You should also try different compositions. Try to look at the scene in front of you for a while before you start shooting. What do you want the lens to capture?

What do you want to be your focal point? Think about this beforehand, but also don’t be afraid to try something different throughout the shoot. 

Different Perspectives

It’s a good idea to play around with your perspectives. Try different angles, and alter between depths of field.

For instance, while the waterfall may be your main focal point, you could find that photographing the rocks on the shore line, or flowers, with the waterfall flowing in the background makes for an interesting photograph. 

Use A Remote

You could also try using a remote, as when you press the shutter button, it can result in some shake, which you will not want if shooting with a longer exposure. Using a remote can activate the shutter and prevent any shake. 

Keep The Lens Dry

This is an important tip that many may forget. The spray from the waterfall can get onto your lens, which can ruin your final images. Be sure to keep the lens dry at all times, or give it a wipe in between shots to ensure crisp, clear images.


To summarize, photographing waterfalls is simple once you know all of the best settings to use on your camera. You can create some really interesting shots by playing around with the shutter speed and aperture settings.

But, it can take some practice and a few example shots first when trying to capture the motion of the water, so be patient and enjoy the experience! 

Laura McNeill
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