Shooting Silk: How to Take Captivating Waterfall Photos

Hands down, my favorite photography is waterfall chasing. Waterfalls are just so powerful, so captivating, so attention-grabbing. I was lucky enough to grow up and live in the Pacific Northwest, where waterfalls seem to be around every river bend, every drop in forest elevation, and off every mountain side. The Portland area alone in Oregon is blessed with the Columbia River Gorge, where an entire corridor of waterfalls await to be explored (note: at the time of this writing, September 2018, many trails remain closed in the Gorge due to the Eagle Creek fire of 2017. Please respect trail closures because of the dangers they pose to you, search and rescue teams, the forest service recovery efforts, and the very land itself). But waterfalls are not limited to the PNW, and whether large or small, they are sure to capture your heart as much as they have mine. In this guide, I’ll take you all the way through shooting a waterfall, from the planning stages to capturing the waterfall in the field, along with other considerations.

Planning the Shot

Gear for Shooting Waterfalls

Camera Settings for Waterfall Photography

Again, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation, but I recommend starting here and then playing around until you get pleasing results:


  • Aperture: f/8-f/16 is your starting point for maximal sharpness, depending on the exact effect you would like and what your other settings will be.
  • Shutter speed: 1/4 – 1/3 of a second is usually the sweet spot, but you should play around with longer exposures (1-30 seconds) and shorter exposures (under 1/4 second) for different effects. Each shot you take will be different, especially in river flow areas, which is one of the exciting features of waterfall photography!
  • ISO: the lower the better! ISO 100 will give you crisp, grain-free images, and will allow you to open up your shutter for longer for nice silky exposures. This may also be variable though depending on the lighting conditions and what your other camera settings are.
  • White balance: this is something you can change in post, but you may want to play around with different shade and cloudy settings to see what you like.
  • Self-timer or intervalometer: touching your camera’s shutter creates enough shake to give you a blurry image, so it’s best to either put your camera on a 2-second delay or use an intervalometer.

Composition for Waterfall Photography

Other Considerations

Apr 16, 2019 | Photography

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RoamFreeRebecca content creator photographer

Hey I’m Rebecca!

I’m a freelance travel & outdoors photographer and blogger living in the US but you can find me adventuring around the globe! On this blog I share tips to help you improve your photography, inspiration to explore the outdoors, destination guides, and travel tips, and more to plan your own adventures!





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