Nature Photography: How to Shoot Waterfalls

by Kevin Moss

Bond Falls
Bond Falls
© Kevin Moss
All Rights Reserved
Michiganís Upper Peninsula is blessed with some of the most dramatic waterfalls in the country. Often, Iíll return to the same sites to shoot the same waterfalls I might have shot years ago. My techniques keep getting better, and sometimes, weather conditions are better one year from the other years. My tip: Never be hesitant to return to the same sites youíve visited before. Practice can make perfect! With repeat visits, youíll learn the area better, familiarize yourself with the best lighting conditions for the subject, and compose your shots differently than in the past.

My tips for optimum waterfall shooting include:

Lighting: Like shooting trees in autumn, the best lighting is overcast, especially in between rain storms. In the Upper Peninsula, it rains almost every day in the fall. You want that dark diffused lighting in order to slow down your shutter speed.

Bond Falls
Bond Falls
© Kevin Moss
All Rights Reserved
Shutter Speed: In order to get that blurred-smooth-flow look to your waterfall scene, you need to shoot at a shutter speed of 1 to 1.6 seconds. In order to achieve a properly exposed scene at those slow shutter speeds, youíll need to set your aperture to a setting of f/16 or smaller, up to f/22. Youíll get great depth of field, with the entire frame in focus too. If the lighting is too bright to bring your shutter speed down to 1 to 1.6 seconds, try a neutral density filter.

ND Filter: A neutral density (ND) filter is a must for waterfall shooting. Placing an ND filter over your lens reduces the amount of light, thus decreasing the shutter speeds to accommodate the reduction of light, without affecting color in your scene.


Tripod and Remote Shutter Release: At shutter speeds of 1 to 1.6 seconds, use of a tripod, a good tripod is a must. Additionally, at those speeds, youíll also need the assistance of utilizing a remote shutter release. Using a remote shutter release eliminates any vibration introduced to your camera when your finger actually presses the shutter. Trust me, a remote release, available for almost all camera models, makes a huge difference in obtaining sharp images. If you donít have a remote shutter release, try the "poor-manís/womenís remote shutter release".


Your Camera's Self-Timer: Using your cameras self-timer feature will accomplish the same effect as using a remote shutter release. When this feature is set, you press the shutter, and the camera doesnít expose your film or image sensor for a pre-set number of seconds. Setting your self timer to 5 seconds will allow for any vibrations to cease when pressing the shutter button.

Editor's Note: Check out Kevin Moss's BetterPhoto course: Digital Photography for Nature Photographers.




Article by Kevin Moss. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at BetterPhoto.com.