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The waterfalls have always been favorite subjects for photographers. They can be the basis of beautiful photos but it must be given a minimum means. Indeed, if it is relatively easy to photograph a waterfall, make a strong photo is a different challenge. I propose in this article to discover 10 tips to achieve this.

1- Prepare your exit

Whether you are near your home or on your vacation spot there is a good chance that there is a waterfall nearby. You may already know some of them that might be interesting to photograph. 
Otherwise, you can search on the internet or simply inquire at the nearest tourist office. 
Once you have identified a waterfall to photograph, go to a photo-sharing site ( Flickr for example). You will be able to see how the subject has been treated by other photographers and draw some ideas of achievements.
Some waterfalls are only accessible after several hours of walking. Learn about the difficulty of the course and equip yourself accordingly.

2- Choose the right season

Depending on the season, the flow of certain rivers fluctuates greatly. If you want to take strong photos, you must choose the most favorable period. Waterfalls fed primarily by snowmelt, for example, are often drained at the end of the summer. These waterfalls are more interesting in the late spring or early summer. If you are in a tropical zone, you will prefer the rainy season to the dry season.

3- Watch the weather

Soft and balanced light is ideal to highlight the waterfalls. You will find this type of light in cloudy weather (the clouds play a role of natural diffuser). The sunny days are less appropriate because the contrast of the scene is often too important to be recorded by the sensor of the camera If you have no choice, photograph early in the morning or late at night when the sun is low in the sky.

4- Take a long shot

A slow shutter speed makes it possible to transcribe the movement of water and make pretty yarns. There is no miracle adjustment that can work in all situations. You need to adjust the shutter speed according to several parameters such as the water flow or the desired degree of blur. A speed of 1/30 of a second is a good base to start.

5- Use a low ISO value

By choosing a low ISO value your sensor is less sensitive to light and the shutter needs to stay open longer to get the correct exposure. This is exactly what you need to take pictures in long exposure. With low ISO sensitivity, your images will also be less prone to digital noise.

river waterfals
Photo by Archie Binamira from Pexels

6- Watch the exhibition

The exposure is often difficult to adjust in long exposure because there is a risk of overexposure. If the shutter speed is too slow the lighter areas will be “burned”, that is, they will not show any detail. 
Start by making the first photo with the automatic mode to have a first overview of the settings. Then switch to manual mode and vary the shutter speed and aperture to achieve the desired result. You can also use the bracketing function of your camera to test various settings.

7- Use a tripod

By using slow shutter speed, you must absolutely stabilize your camera to avoid camera shake. A wired remote or remote shutter can supplement the device to prevent slight vibrations that occur when you press the shutter button.

8- Use a filter

A neutral density filter is very convenient for photographing the cascades when the brightness is too strong. It reduces the amount of light that enters the camera without altering the colors. You can benefit from slow shutter speed to make a yarn. 
The elements (rocks, vegetation) located near the waterfalls are generally wet and will tend to produce reflections. A polarizing filter is an essential accessory to remove these unwanted reflections. Note that it is quite possible to associate these 2 types of filters on your lens.

9- Heal the composition

The composition is an essential parameter for the success of your stunt photos. Do not install your tripod right away when you are near the waterfall. Explore the scene and try to find an angle of view or interesting elements to integrate into the frame. Here are some ways to help you compose:

  • Avoid photographing the waterfall from the front and opt for a side shot.
  • Try to isolate part of the waterfall with a telephoto lens.
  • Use elements of the scene (rocks, flowers, foliage, etc.) to create a foreground.
mountain waterfalls
Photo by Rudolf Kirchner from Pexels

10- Experiment

It is rare to obtain a good result from the first picture. Many tests are often necessary to achieve the desired effect. It is by trying different exposure times and different compositions that you will arrive at the best possible rendering.

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