The Art Of Capturing Stunning Waterfall Photos

Nature offers us humans so many spectacular scenes of beauty, that it comes as no surprise that so many of us want to pause time and stay in that moment forever.

The Art Of Capturing Stunning Waterfall Photos

Now, we don’t have access to time travel, but we do have cameras in the plenty, and these magical contraptions allow us to capture the moment and look back on it for the rest of our lives, which is, when you think about it, amazingly cool. 

But one issue that many photographers find, professionals and novices alike, is that the camera never seems to do nature the justice it deserves.

To really highlight the astounding beauty of nature at its best, such as elegant cascading waterfalls, you need to really know your way around your equipment and understand your surroundings. 

Luckily, in this article, we’re going to go over all the tips and tricks to get the absolute best pictures of waterfalls possible. So, what are you waiting for? Keep reading to learn more. 

Effective Tips & Tricks For Waterfall Photography

When it comes to taking the best pictures of waterfalls, you’ll need to keep the environment in mind as it is likely to alter the type of equipment that you’re going to need to use.

Let’s take a look at some of the best tips and tricks to ensure that you get the optimum photography experience when snapping pictures of waterfalls. 

Use A Circular Polarizer Filter To Reduce Glare 

One of the most common mistakes individuals make when it comes to taking photographs of waterfalls is to not use a polarizer filter.

It’s important to remember that most of the surrounding area of a waterfall will also be wet. The water on the vegetation and rocks can often cause glare that can significantly reduce the quality of your photograph. 

A circular polarizer filter can easily combat this issue. It cuts down the light entering your camera significantly by 1.5 to 2 f-stops.

Now, this does slow down the shutter speed so opting for a circular polarizer as a 1.5 f-stop allows for a neutral density filter. 

However, this filter can come with some limitations, so it;s important to know how to correctly use it and how to combat typical side effects such as uneven polarization. 

Consider The Lighting

Now, this one is a little harder to always ensure, after all, we can’t control the weather.

With that being said though, you can try to plan ahead and ensure that you’re at your location at the best time for the natural lighting you desire. 

Typically, waterfalls look best when there is soft overcast light. So, try to snap your shots in this light where possible as it will create the most stunning images of the cascading waterfall.

This type of lighting is effective as it often has a ‘spotlight’ like quality that really adds to the dramatic effect of the image. 

We recommend opting to take pictures during the early morning or evening hours. With that being said, though, most lighting will work, it’s just that light overcast mornings or evenings give the best effect. 

Pay Attention To The Highlights In The Water

You want the waterfall to be the most striking image within your photograph so you’ll want to highlight the water to give it a bold and bright emphasis.

However, you need to do so with caution as overexposing the highlights is all too easy, even in the most overcast conditions. 

Because of this, the best practice is to check the exposure after each and every image you take. From there you can decide whether or not bracketing is needed. 

We often recommend taking several different photos using different shutter speeds and then combining two or more photos in the photoshopping process.

For example, you can use one image to expose and highlight the water and then another to make the necessary changes to the surrounding area.

Then when the two are combined, you’ll have the most visually pleasing photo of a waterfall to date. 

Use Photography Composition To Create Unique Perspectives

Photography composition is a very valuable tool to use when snapping shots of waterfalls, however, it must be used with caution. This tool can be the difference between an award-winning photograph and a subpar one. 

Here are a few things to consider when using photography composition

  • Avoid distracting elements that will draw attention away from the waterfall.
  • Take advantage of the cascades at the base of the waterfall to form leading lines.
  • Don’t feel forced to capture the entire waterfall as this isn’t always necessary. 
  • Minimalist photography can be just as effective as heavily edited versions. 

Also keep in mind that vertical photography composition is usually required to properly capture the full waterfall, but don’t be deterred from trying out a few horizontal compositions too.

They can be just as effective, even without capturing the entire waterfall. This also means that you have a wider variety of shots for your clients to choose from. 

Don’t Be Scared To Include Human Elements In Your Photographs

Sometimes, it can feel almost wrong to add human elements to such powerful and amazing natural phenomena, but don’t be scared to experiment with it for a few shots. It can actually be really impactful. 

Adding human elements to your photographs works amazingly well to give a reference to the scale of the waterfall and can even help to add more mood or drama to the photograph.

And human elements can be anything, from adding an individual to the image to opting to show fences, pathways, or walkways.

They all help to add a little something extra to the photograph which can make it totally unique and different from the many other similar images. 

Use Post-Processing To Bring Out Those Extra Details, Colors, And Textures

You should never underestimate the power of post-processing. It can transform seemingly simple photos into something truly extraordinary.

You can even combine several different photographs together seamlessly to get the very best out of each of your images. 

As we mentioned earlier, you can’t always guarantee you’ll get the optimum weather conditions when you take your photos. And this can significantly change the appearance of your image. 

The leaves of surrounding foliage may be dark and duller than usual, or the water might have an unappealing color after heavy rainfall for example.

All these little details can be changed during post-processing to ensure that you have the ideal photograph.

So pay close attention to the elements of the photograph so you can improve them and act accordingly in the post-processing process. 

Pick Your Tripod Carefully

To get the perfect picture, you’ll also want to really carefully select the tripod you use. The two most important features of your chosen tripod are that it is waterproof and sturdy.

Any area near a waterfall is going to be wet, that’s a given, and they are also surrounded by uneven terrain so these features will help you to get stable and effective photographs. 

We also recommend opting for a tripod without a middle center pole. This is because it allows you to get your camera much closer to the ground. This will help you produce much better and more interesting compositions. 

Use A Remote Trigger Or Timer

Snapping the perfect photograph of a waterfall that isn’t shaky or blurry is a challenging task, so you’ll want to help yourself out as much as possible.

This is why a remote trigger or timer is always a welcome and helpful feature. 

This means that you won’t have to handle the camera once it’s set up and ready to go, and so you won’t be shaking or moving the camera thus only encouraging a blurry unclear photograph.  

With a trigger or a timer, you can ensure that you can keep the camera completely still before the exposure starts and this will give you a crystal clear and stunning image. 

Dress Appropriately

A final piece of advice is to dress appropriately. Now, this might not directly affect your images but it can certainly indirectly affect them.

To get the very best results from waterfalls it is likely that you’re going to have to place yourself in some awkward, and wet, positions. 

Therefore, you’ll need to be prepared. This means ensuring that you’ve got a sturdy pair of walking boots that are waterproof. You may also want to take a change of clothes so that you can get soaking wet if needs must. 

We promise you that you’ll get much better compositions by getting down and dirty than by sticking to the comfortable shore. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, taking the perfect picture of a stunning cascading waterfall isn’t always as easy as it seems. There are many things that you’ll need to consider to ensure that perfect snapshot. 

But don’t let that deter you from creating that photography masterpiece.

Provided you follow the tips and tricks provided in this article, you can be sure that you will be producing some of the most professional and beautiful waterfall pictures of all time.

Laura McNeill
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