The Best Camera Settings for Waterfall Photography: Tips and Tricks

When it comes to capturing the beauty and power of waterfalls through photography, getting the right camera settings is crucial.

As someone who has spent countless hours photographing waterfalls, I have learned that the right camera settings can make all the difference in creating stunning images that truly capture the essence of these natural wonders.

One of the most important camera settings to consider when photographing waterfalls is the shutter speed. Since waterfalls are constantly in motion, finding the right shutter speed can help you create a sense of movement and flow in your images.

A slower shutter speed can create a silky smooth effect, while a faster shutter speed can freeze the motion of the water and create a more dramatic effect.

Another important camera setting to consider is the aperture. A wider aperture can help you create a shallower depth of field, which can be useful if you want to isolate a specific part of the waterfall or create a more artistic effect.

On the other hand, a smaller aperture can help you create a deeper depth of field, allowing you to capture more detail in the scene.

By finding the right balance between shutter speed and aperture, you can create images that truly capture the beauty and power of waterfalls.

In overview, my recommended camera settings for waterfall photography are as follows:

  • ISO: 100
  • Aperture: f/11
  • Shutter Speed: 1 second
  • White Balance: AWB (Auto)
  • Shooting mode : Manual

Camera Gear

When it comes to photographing waterfalls, having the right camera gear is essential. Here are some of the essential pieces of equipment that I use for waterfall photography:


Choosing the right lens is crucial for capturing stunning waterfall images. I prefer using a wide-angle lens for waterfall photography, as it allows me to capture the entire scene and convey the grandeur of the waterfall. A telephoto lens can also be used to capture close-up shots of the waterfall and the surrounding landscape.

When using a wide-angle lens, I recommend using a focal length of around 16-35mm. This will allow you to capture a wide field of view and include the surrounding landscape in your shot.

A telephoto lens with a focal length of around 70-200mm can be used to capture close-up shots of the waterfall and the surrounding details.


Using a tripod is essential for capturing sharp and well-exposed images of waterfalls. A sturdy tripod will help keep your camera steady and prevent camera shake, which can result in blurry images. I recommend using a tripod with a ball head, as it allows for easy adjustments and precise framing.


Filters can be used to enhance your waterfall images and create stunning effects. A polarizing filter can be used to reduce glare and reflections on the water, while a neutral density filter can be used to slow down your shutter speed and create a silky-smooth effect on the water.

Other Gear

In addition to the above equipment, there are a few other items that I always bring with me when photographing waterfalls. These include:

  • Remote shutter release: This allows me to trigger the camera without touching it, which helps prevent camera shake.
  • Lens cloth: To keep my lenses clean and free of water droplets.
  • Rain cover: To protect my camera and lens from rain and water spray.
  • Extra batteries and memory cards: To ensure I never run out of power or storage space.

Camera Settings

When it comes to waterfall photography, getting the right camera settings is crucial to capture the beauty of the flowing water.

In this section, I will discuss the four main camera settings to consider: Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, and Neutral Density Filters.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the length of time that the camera’s shutter is open to allow light to hit the camera’s sensor. The longer the shutter is open, the more light will enter the camera, resulting in a brighter image.

However, a longer shutter speed can also cause motion blur, which may or may not be desirable based on your creative vision. For waterfall photography, a longer shutter speed is usually preferred to create a silky, smooth effect on the water.


Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens that allows light to enter the camera. The aperture is measured in f-stops, with a lower number indicating a larger opening and a higher number indicating a smaller opening.

For waterfall photography, a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) is preferred to increase the depth of field and ensure that the entire scene is in focus.


ISO measures the camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO will result in a brighter image, but it can also introduce noise or grain to the image.

For waterfall photography, it is best to keep the ISO as low as possible to avoid noise and to allow for the longer shutter speed needed to create a smooth effect on the water.

Neutral Density Filters

Neutral Density (ND) filters are used to reduce the amount of light entering the camera without affecting the color of the image.

ND filters come in different strengths, with higher numbers indicating a stronger filter that allows less light to enter the camera. Using an ND filter allows for a longer shutter speed in bright conditions, which can create a more dramatic effect on the water.

In conclusion, finding the right camera settings for waterfall photography involves a balance between shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and the use of ND filters. Experimenting with different settings can help you achieve the desired effect on the water and create stunning images.

Tripod and Remote Shutter

When it comes to waterfall photography, using a tripod is essential. It helps to stabilize the camera and prevent any blur caused by the camera shake.

I always use a sturdy tripod to avoid any accidents near the water. It’s also important to make sure the tripod is level, especially if you’re shooting a long exposure.

In addition to using a tripod, a remote shutter release is also highly recommended. This allows you to take the photo without physically pressing the camera’s shutter button, which can cause unwanted camera shake.

I prefer to use a wireless remote shutter release, as it gives me more freedom to move around and experiment with different angles.

Another option is to use the camera’s self-timer, which can also help to reduce camera shake. However, this method can be a bit more time-consuming, as you’ll need to wait for the timer to count down before the photo is taken.

Overall, using a tripod and remote shutter release can greatly improve the quality of your waterfall photos. They help to reduce camera shake and allow you to experiment with longer shutter speeds, resulting in beautiful, silky smooth waterfalls.

Composition and Focus

When it comes to capturing stunning waterfall shots, composition and focus are crucial. Here are some tips to help you get the perfect shot.

Focus Point

Choosing the right focus point is essential in waterfall photography. You want to make sure that the waterfall is in focus and sharp.

One way to do this is to use the single-point autofocus mode. This mode allows you to select a specific focus point on your camera’s LCD screen.

Another tip is to use the back button focus technique. This technique separates the autofocus function from the shutter button, allowing you to focus on the waterfall and then recompose your shot without losing focus.

Depth of Field

Depth of field is another important aspect of composition in waterfall photography. You want to make sure that your entire image is in focus, from the waterfall in the foreground to the trees in the background.

To achieve this, you can use a smaller aperture, such as f/16 or f/22. A smaller aperture increases your depth of field, allowing you to capture more of the scene in focus.

Focus Stacking

If you want to capture an even greater depth of field, you can use focus stacking. Focus stacking is a technique where you take multiple images of the same scene, each with a different focus point, and then combine them in post-processing.

To use this technique, you will need to take several shots of the same scene, each with a different focus point. You can then combine these images using software such as Adobe Photoshop or Helicon Focus.

By using these composition and focus techniques, you can capture stunning waterfall shots that are in focus and beautifully composed.

Photographing Waterfalls

When it comes to photographing waterfalls, there are a few important camera settings to keep in mind. In this section, I will discuss the most crucial settings for capturing stunning images of waterfalls.


Lighting plays a critical role in waterfall photography. It can make or break a shot. When shooting waterfalls, it’s important to consider the time of day and the direction of the light.

Early morning or late afternoon light can create a soft, warm glow that can add a beautiful touch to your images. However, if the light is too harsh, it can create harsh shadows and blow out highlights.

Motion Blur

One of the most striking features of waterfall photography is the motion blur effect. To achieve this effect, you’ll need to use a slow shutter speed.

The exact shutter speed will depend on the speed of the water and the amount of motion blur you want to capture. Generally, shutter speeds between 1/4 and 1/15 second work well for most waterfalls.


Waterfall photography is not just about capturing the motion blur effect. There are many creative ways to photograph waterfalls. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Experiment with different angles and perspectives. Try shooting from above, below, or behind the waterfall.
  • Use a polarizing filter to reduce glare and enhance the colors of the water and foliage.
  • Incorporate the surrounding environment into your shots. Include rocks, trees, and other elements to add depth and context to your images.

Long Exposure Photography

Long-exposure photography is a popular technique for capturing stunning images of waterfalls. To achieve this effect, you’ll need to use a slow shutter speed and a tripod to keep your camera steady. The longer the exposure, the more motion blur you’ll capture.


When shooting with a slow shutter speed, you may encounter noise in your images. To reduce noise, use a low ISO setting and shoot in RAW format. RAW files contain more information than JPEG files, which gives you more flexibility when editing your images.

In summary, photographing waterfalls requires a combination of technical skill and creativity. By using the right camera settings and experimenting with different techniques, you can capture stunning images of these natural wonders.

Lens Care

When photographing waterfalls, it’s important to take good care of your lenses to ensure that you capture sharp and clear images. Here are some tips that I follow to keep my lenses in good condition:

  • Clean your lens regularly: I always carry a lens cloth with me to wipe away any dust or smudges from my lens. I make sure to clean my lens before and after each use to prevent any dirt or debris from getting inside the lens.
  • Avoid touching the glass: I never touch the glass on my lens with my fingers, as the oils from my skin can leave smudges or even damage the lens coating. Instead, I use a lens cloth to wipe away any dirt or smudges.
  • Store your lens properly: When I’m not using my lens, I make sure to store it in a protective case or pouch to prevent any scratches or damage. I also keep my lens away from extreme temperatures and humidity.
  • Be gentle: When cleaning your lens, be gentle and avoid using too much pressure. Use a soft, lint-free cloth and gently wipe the lens in a circular motion.

Taking care of your lenses is an important part of photography, especially when capturing images of waterfalls. By following these simple tips, you can keep your lenses in good condition and ensure that your images are sharp and clear.

Final thoughts

Waterfall photography can be challenging, but with the right camera settings and composition, you can capture stunning images that showcase the beauty of these natural wonders.

Remember to experiment with different camera settings, compositions, and angles, and be patient in waiting for the perfect shot.

With practice and perseverance, you can master the art of waterfall photography and capture images that will amaze and inspire you. So get out there, explore your local waterfalls, and see what kind of beautiful images you can create!

You might be interested in these other camera settings articles:

The best camera settings for outdoor portraits

Sunset Photography Settings: How to Capture the Perfect Shot


  1. Can I use a fast shutter speed for waterfall photography?

While a fast shutter speed can freeze the motion of the water, it may not give you the same silky, smooth effect as a slow shutter speed. We recommend using a slow shutter speed for waterfall photography.

  1. What is the best time of day to photograph waterfalls?

The best time of day to photograph waterfalls is during golden hour, which is the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset.

  1. Do I need to use an ND filter for waterfall photography?

While not necessary, an ND filter can be helpful in creating longer exposures and achieving a silky, smooth effect.

  1. Should I use autofocus or manual focus for waterfall photography?

We recommend using manual focus for waterfall photography to ensure the entire waterfall is in focus.

  1. How can I ensure a sharp image when shooting waterfalls?

Use a tripod to keep your camera steady and use manual focus to ensure the entire waterfall is in focus.