How to photograph waterfalls - the best camera settings to use
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
If you want to learn how to photograph waterfalls to get silky smooth water, look no further. I will give you some tips on how to photograph waterfalls and the best camera settings to use.
Serenity Falls or Buderim Falls
Serenity Falls is also known as Buderim Falls. It's located in Buderim Forest Park, just North of the Buderim town centre, just 15 minutes from the Sunshine Coast. It's a great place to take kids to, as there is only a short walk from the car park to the waterfall, and there's a large swimming hole that you can splash around in. It's also a great spot for photography.
There are two entry points to get to the waterfall. The easiest way to get to the waterfall is from Lindsay Road which is a 600m wheelchair friendly walk.
Serenity Falls has a raised walkway above the waterfall, so you can take images from above the waterfall as well as below. As you can see from the photo above it's a very popular spot for photography enthusiasts, and it's here that I'm going to teach you how to photograph waterfalls.
When photographing moving water, it's best to set your camera on a slow shutter speed with a long exposure to capture the water movement. This makes your images look more dream-like. Look at the two images below. Which one do you prefer? The image on the top? Or the image on the bottom?
The image on the bottom was taken with a slower shutter speed and a longer exposure, which allowed more of the water to flow while the shutter was open, creating a more pleasing look than the first image.
The best camera settings for photographing water in motion
When photographing water in motion, you will need to use a tripod to keep the camera still. It's not possible to capture an image which is in focus, if you're handholding the camera with a very slow shutter speed, as you will have too much handshake going on. Even if you try to balance it on a rock it won't look as sharp as when you use a tripod - trust me - I've tried. Your tripod will become your best friend if you like taking silky smooth water images.
The best camera settings to use if you want to create a silky white blur of water are:
a low ISO (100 works the best)
a long exposure (of about 10-30 seconds)
an aperture of between f/11 and f/16 works well for waterfall and landscape photography
The best lens to use when photographing waterfalls
It's always best to use a wide angle lens to capture the surrounding landscape as well as the waterfall. If the waterfall is quite high, you can also turn the camera to portrait mode. However waterfalls always look best in landscape mode if you position the waterfall off to the side of the image. Think of the rule of thirds and position the waterfall along one of the the intersecting lines in your viewfinder. (More about the rule of thirds in another blog post.)
Other equipment you will need when photographing waterfalls
When photographing waterfalls, you will also need a neutral density (or polarizing) filter over your lens, as you won't be able to capture a properly exposed image if you're using a slow shutter speed during the day time. The other option is to go when it's really dark outside, ie. before sunrise or after sunset.
Another tip is to make sure that you have a remote control for your camera, or if you don't have one, put it on the self timer mode to reduce handshake when pressing the shutter button.
Tips when photographing landscape images
When photographing landscapes, it's sometimes a good idea to include a person in your image, so you can see the scale of things. A pop of colour never goes astray either. See below for an example of this:
Explore different angles and don't be afraid to get your feet wet. Sometimes the best angle can be looking out from behind the waterfall.
If you follow the waterfall downstream you can sometimes get some good shots there as well:
I hope you have absorbed some good tips on how to photograph waterfalls in this blog post. The advice above doesn't just apply to waterfall photography though. You can experiment with waves at the beach as well. Take several shots of the same scene with different shutter speeds and see which works best for you. You might like the look of freezing water in motion better than creating silky smooth water shots.
If you've used any of my tips or have any questions, please comment below to let me know. Happy photographing!
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