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Waterfalls are really great subjects. Firstly, because they are unusually beautiful, secondly, it’s interesting to shoot waterfalls, and this is due to the complex lighting that they are surrounded by, and thirdly, the dynamics always attract and fascinate. The movement of the subject, of course, often means a challenge to the photographer, but also a real opportunity to make the picture dynamic and vibrant. Much, of course, has already been written about the intricacies of photographing waterfalls, but the basics are pretty simple. They will be shared by photographer Darren Rowse.

How to shoot waterfalls as easy as shelling pears

Work with movement

Each time a photographer has to shoot an object in motion, he actually has two options. Firstly, you can freeze the movement using a fast shutter speed, and secondly, you can fix and strengthen the movement using a longer shutter speed, which blurs the moving element in the frame (in this case, water).

Most photographers choose the second option and allow the water in the frame to blur. How to do it? From the equipment you need only a digital camera and a tripod. It will also be useful to have a polarizing filter with you, if any.

Take a control shot

Before you start experimenting, switch the camera to automatic mode, make sure the flash is off, and take the first shot of the waterfall. Pay attention to the exposure that the camera sets. Almost certainly, automatic exposure will partly contribute to the solidification of the movement of water. This photo will be a small guide for comparing your shots and using them as a basis for them.

Shutter Priority Mode

Switch to shutter priority mode on the camera. Generally, you should try using a shutter speed of 1 to 2 seconds to get a good blur.

Your optional equipment is a tripod

To take a picture with a shutter speed of the desired length, you will definitely need to use a tripod to completely immobilize the camera for the entire time while its shutter is open.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Attach the camera to a tripod, switch to shutter priority mode, set the shutter speed to 1-2 seconds and take a picture. Unfortunately, in most cases you will be accompanied by errors.

The problem with increasing shutter speed is that it increases the amount of light entering the camera, in which case the image will be overexposed unless the weather is cloudy enough (even if the camera sets a very small aperture to compensate for the shutter priority).

Other tips to try and get the right exposure in the picture

There are a few things you can do to reduce the amount of light entering the camera’s photosensitive element and improve exposure.

How to shoot waterfalls as easy as shelling pears

Time – choose the right time of day for shooting a waterfall, and you will certainly discover more options for using longer shutter speeds. The time around sunrise and sunset is an obvious option, as the light is less bright. Also, cloudy weather for such a survey would definitely be better.

Filters – their use reduces the amount of light entering the camera, which can also help. There are a number of different filters, but polarizing is a good option for shooting waterfalls, as it not only reduces the amount of light entering the lens, but can also help you improve your pictures (reduce reflections in photos). Another type of filter that you can use is a neutral density filter. It is a filter that suppresses light entering the matrix, i.e. acts almost like sunglasses.

Aperture Priority Mode

If you still have problems with exposure, despite the dark of the day or the use of a polarizing filter, you can try a different approach. Switch to aperture priority mode and select the smallest possible aperture. On most cameras, this will be f / 22 or f / 36. As a result, the camera will automatically select the slowest shutter speed available for this aperture. It may not be 2 seconds, but it will almost always be longer than the shutter speed in the first control shot that you took, and as a result, the water will have a more blurred look. Also, a smaller aperture will lead to an increase in depth of field and more attention will be paid to the waterfall in the frame.


Choosing a lower ISO means that the camera sensor is less sensitive to light, and you need to slow down the shutter speed. It also means less noise and graininess in the pictures, which will give them more nice details.

How to shoot waterfalls as easy as shelling pears

Tips for shooting waterfalls

Of course, the right exposure is only part of the whole equation when it comes to photographing waterfalls with a digital camera. Take advantage of a few more tips from photo masters.

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