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How to Photograph Waterfalls
  • Michelle Harris

How to Photograph Waterfalls

Do you love waterfalls, but don't know how to get that creamy waterfall look? In this post I want to share a few things to help you get the best waterfall photo possible.

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I went for years not knowing how to get the best photo possible of waterfalls. It was so frustrating to me. No matter what I tried it just wouldn't give me the look I wanted. Then I took a class that was covering landscape photography and included waterfalls!! I was so excited to finally be able to get the type of photo I wanted. Now, I want to share with you what I have learned and maybe save you some of the frustration I experienced. #naturephotography #waterfalls #waterfallsofNC #chasingwaterfalls

I am going to share with you the type of equipment you need to get the best possible photo. If you don't have this type of equipment you can still get a beautiful photo with a few tricks. you just may not have the creamy look that you see in magazines and books. Let's dive in!

Equipment Needs

1. DSLR camera or equivalent

This type of camera is needed in order to set a slow shutter speed to create the creamy appearance of the water.

2. Tripod

A tripod is a must when using slow shutter speed to avoid camera shake. It is possible to to hand hold the camera, however, the shutter speed you will want use will be difficult to hold steady for that length of time.

3. Neutral density filter (ND filter)

A ND filter decreases the amount of light coming through your lens. ND filters come in various strengths and are a tremendous help if you are shooting on a bright sunny day.

4. Wide angle lens and telephoto lens

These two types of lens will be helpful when shooting waterfalls. If there is a chance that you may get your equipment wet if you get close to the falls you will want to be as far as possible and still get a great view. When standing farther away a telephoto lens will be needed so you can zoom in on the falls and avoid getting wet. If the falls don't put off a lot of mist and the chance of getting your equipment wet are very slim a wide angle lens is preferred.

How to Shoot a Waterfall

Shutter Speed

In order to get the nice smooth dreamy look in the water you need a slow shutter speed. A fast shutter speed only freezes the motion of the water; where as a slow shutter speed allows the movement of the water to blur. It is the blurring of the water that creates the smoothness of the water. The slower you are able to get the better. Ideally you want to use a shutter speed of several seconds in order to get the water motion to blur.


In order to achieve a the slow shutter speed you will need to use a tripod. Using a tripod you can ensure your camera will be stable and remain still for the full length of the shot. You can try to hand hold your camera, however you will need to use a shorter time and the water will not be a smooth.


You will want to use the lowest iso your camera allows; which for most is 100. By lowering the iso you will not only gain better quality you will be able to lower your shutter speed.

F Stop (Aperture)

If your shutter speed is still to fast to produce the creamy appearance you desire try stopping down to a larger number like f11. By stopping down less light will be hitting the sensor of your camera allowing you to slow your shutter speed even further.

Use a Neutral Density Filter (ND filter)

If your shots are still to bright you can use an ND filter to decrease the light entering your lens. On a bright day using a ND filter will be the only way to get the slow shutter speed. An ND or neutral density filter are design for this specific purpose. An ND filter is a dark filter that limits the amount of light that is allowed to pass through and comes in many different strengths. If you are out and about and don't have a filter with you try using your sunglasses in from of the lens.

Wide angle and Telephoto lens

If the falls aren't too large and put off a great deal of mist use a wide angle lens. The wide angle lens will allow you to capture the falls and some of the surroundings. If it is a larger falls and puts off mist standing close would potentially put your equipment at risk for getting wet. This is when a telephoto lens is a better choice. The telephoto lens will allow you to zoom in on the waterfall and not put your equipment at risk.

"Hang with a scene as it's unfolding. So many times what happens next will be better than the photos you've taken - or the photos you've been hoping for." Sarah Rice

If you are considering having a photo session give me a call and let's see if we connect. Let's capture your true family dynamics and the real you!

        Winston-Salem, North Carolina                 336-408-0804       



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