Waterfalls photography is a subcategory of beautiful Landscape photography and Nature photography. Therefore we need to reach a related location to make stunning waterfall photographs. Then you need to make a plan to reach the exact location on time with all accessories and required items with on time. As well as it should include the proper way to come back to your home safely too.
Waterfalls are the non-moving items but it is made with huge moving water flow. Waterfalls photography can be divided into two categories. You can see that, what is the appearance difference between those 2 categories from below images?
The first image is showing that fast-moving water is made as foggy or smoke appearance rather than the typical water appearance. In this, we need to use long exposure with low lighting. In normal daylight, we cannot make this type of quality waterfall photography with only changing the DSLR camera settings. The second image is showing the typical way of showing the real appearance of the fast-moving water flow. In this case, we need to use a very fast shutter speed with high lighting. Then we can freeze the moving objects as we want. Okay, here I listed few important tips as the guidelines for make super quality stunning waterfalls photography without any higher knowledge and experience on photography field.
1. Plan your photography tour with safety
Basically, most beautiful and larger waterfalls are located at high hills areas, rural areas or inside of large forests. Therefore we need to reach those locations are a bit hard and we need to spend more time to reach those locations. Our safety is the most important thing. Then we need to make a plan to go safely and come back home safely. We need to arrange all safety items, foods, and water to stay comfortably at those locations. Better you arrange the same rain protecting clothes and items, especially for your DSLR camera too. Normally we are very new to these areas. Therefore we cannot guarantee the climate and weather forecast are good until we came back home.
2. Arrange all necessary photography related equipment
First of all, you need to identify the photography related equipment list which is required to make stunning waterfalls photographs. Then you need to make a small list arrange those items before reach the exact location. A DSLR camera, camera cleaning accessories and camera protecting items are the main items that you should have.
Lens – Camera lens is a very important item that you never forget. Normally wide-angle lens is suitable for both categories of waterfalls photography which I mentioned previously. If you can reach closer to waterfall easily wide-angle lens can be used without any doubt. However, if it is very difficult and harder to reach closer to the waterfall to capture images, a telephoto type lenses will more suitable for easy usage.
Tripod – Tripod is most important in foggy type waterfalls photography. In this case, shutter speed puts in very low value (very slow). Therefore we need to keep the DSLR camera in a steady position for a long period. Tripod can keep your camera without any shake until your long exposure period finished. Please, you don’t try to buy cheaper tripods, those tripods will shake for wind also. As well as you can capture short exposure type waterfalls photographs also by using tripods in a long period.
Lens filters – waterfalls have consisted with water. Water surfaces have so many unwanted light reflections. Those unwanted light reflections can destroy your captured photograph’s clearness, sharpness, and quality. Therefore we can use the polarization filter and neutral density filter (ND filter). Polarization filter helps to reduce the unwanted reflection from the water surface. Same as it will enhance the colors (Especially green color and blue color). ND filter helps to control the over exposing when DSLR camera is working on long exposure camera configuration. Neutral density filter has a set of filtering levels. Then you can choose the better option by considering the location light level.
3. Select capturing location
When you reached the waterfall location. Sometimes there are difficulties to reach any viewing position to take photographs. But you need a capture the whole waterfall, you should stay a bit back from the waterfall and try to insert complete waterfall and bit from the background too. Because only water is not the thing that you need to capture. You should capture moving items as well as non-moving items too. Then your photograph will be more beautiful. That selected capturing place should have some flat surface to keep a tripod properly and steady. When you are going closer to the waterfall, there are so many small water particles coming through the wind. Therefore you need to use protect your DSLR camera from these water particles.
A photograph capturing location always should not in-front of the waterfalls. Therefore better you captured a few no of shots with changing the capturing location. Sometimes you can get stunning waterfalls photographs with different camera positions, according to the background and surround conditions.
4. DSLR camera configuration
First of all, I need to tell one thing. DSLR camera same settings configuration cannot be used for all waterfalls photography moments. Because we need to do some changes with respect to light availability (morning, afternoon or evening), background conditions, climate conditions, and your DSLR camera conditions too. We never grantee that all DSLR camera brands have 100% similar configuration values. However, there is a basic concept that you need to follow to make stunning waterfall photography.
As an example when we get a beginner photographer and professional photographer to take a photograph of a similar object at the same time and same location. Both can take photographs but those photographs have so many variations. Most of the time that professional photographer can change his camera settings much properly with his past experience. In this article, I try to give that knowledge to beginner photographers too with my experience. Especially you can understand which settings should change for make to that type of images.
First, you need to put your DSLR camera settings to manual mode. If you try to capture the foggy type waterfall photograph, you should use low shutter speed. That means you try to use one or few seconds shutter speed. The shutter speed value is denoted the time period of the shutter opened. If you decrease the speed, your photograph’s moving parts will be more blurred. You must keep one thing in your mind. That is when you are using low shutter speed in your DSLR camera, you never allow the make a small shake of your tripod and camera. If it is shaken very small amount, your whole image will be ruined with blurring. Therefore first you should keep your tripod steady.
ISO level should be kept in a very lower value. Because when your shutter opens in a very long period, higher ISO values can be added so many noises for your final photograph. Sometimes it can be overexposed with time. Basically, ISO value is denoted the light sensitivity of your DSLR camera image sensor. Therefore better you put ISO value to 100. When you try to make waterfalls photographs on dark environment (moonlight) you should increase yours ISO level bit higher.
Aperture is the next important camera settings that you need to configure. Normally aperture value is denoted the size of light inserting hole. It is representing the depth of filed. Aperture control can be used to make portrait photographs easily. But I’m not recommending portrait photography for waterfalls photography. Background also play an important role here. Narrow aperture size is better for waterfalls photography. That is a high value for f-stop value. Because when we use wide aperture size, automatically increase the amount of entering light through the aperture. In this case, we are using long shutter speed, then our captured photograph will be overexposed. If you are capturing photographs in dark environment, better you will use wide aperture size.
If you need to get the second category waterfalls photographs which I mentioned in previously, Make your camera setting as below,
- Fast shutter speed value for freeze the moving objects
- Increase the ISO level. Because shutter opens in a very short period. Camera light sensitivity should be high to capture all incoming lights rays in a very short period. Otherwise, your image will be darker.
- Aperture size keeps as a bit of low value (f-stop value should be high). Otherwise, your image going to portrait photography category. Portrait images not recommending for waterfalls photography.
5. Select suitable Neutral density filter
Neutral density filters are using for limiting the extra unwanted lights entering to DSLR camera image sensor. Normally it comes with the pack. It has different levels of light limiting filters. That is reaching to some waterfall photography location is a hard task. Therefore you cannot come another day to capture another photograph. Sometimes you can be able to reach the exact location in the morning, maybe afternoon, maybe evening. Those different day times have different light availability. You cannot stay until the sunset. In this case, ND filters are very important.
Those neutral filters are categorizing with even numbers. ND 2 filter is filtering light rays in one stage of light stop filter. ND 4 filter is filtering light by 2 stages of light stop filters. Therefore when you are using ND 2 filter, you can use half value of shutter speed to capture the same lighted image. Then you can get more blurred water flow in your waterfall photograph, without any overexposed issue.
6. Correct photography composition
Photography composition is using to place the object in the artistic position in the photo frame. Ether waterfalls photography or whatever photography, there are common 9 rules of photography composition to make stunning photographs. Better you follow those rules to make stunning waterfalls photographs. Basically, you need to insert a bit background of the waterfall also to the inside of the photo frame. Better you can insert the part of the sky also. Then your photograph will become more natural and good artistic appearance automatically.
7. Save your images in RAW image file format
DSLR cameras can save captured images in different image file formats. Some image file formats need to save with image compression. Therefore when you save an image on digital storage, there are so many data will loss from the original image. This type of hard reaching photography better you save your captured images in RAW image file format. In RAW image file format does not go under any image file compression and you can save lots of information from the original image. Then the image file size is high. Therefore you need to bring additional digital storage in your camera bag.
8. Final enhancement
As a professional photographer, you should have the ability to handle some advanced photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop helps to convert RAW format images to viewable image file formats like JPEG, PNG or TIFF. Same time you can do all adjustments, color corrections, and photo appearance enhancements before publishing your product. In advance, if you are not satisfied with the blurred level of water area in your waterfalls photograph, you can do more blur on water area with using blur tool very easily and accurately by using Adobe Photoshop software. You do not need to go waterfall location anymore.
I hope you guys have learned about the correct way of making waterfalls photography and how we can make a different type of waterfalls photographs using a DSLR camera. Either beginner or professional photographer, you can make beautiful stunning waterfalls photographs without wasting your valuable time. Do you have any question or doubt on my article content, you can comment on below comment section? Please share my article for your friends! Thank you!