Waterfall photography is one of the most stunning variations of photos we can create. Learning how to take pictures o waterfalls not only inspires us to become great panoramic professional photographers but in addition helps us to strive to become better photographers in a general sense. There is one trouble with taking photos of waterfalls that many photo enthusiasts battle with. That is the daylight. Sometimes waterfalls can be too dark or overexposed. It seems to be a challenge to get the true exposure.
In this waterfall photography tutorial I will be discussing the foremost problems with exposure. Exposure is a term to explain how much total lighting there is. This means that the brightness of your waterfall must be just right; not too bright and not too dark. This can be tough when you are photographing your waterfall on a bright day.
You can see one of my past photos of a waterfall. This was photographed on the automatic mode ten years ago when I knew very little about photography. Thankfully times have changed and I know what to do now!
The trouble with this image is that the digital camera exposed for light off the shadow areas of the photo and missed the top section. As a result the crest of the waterfall is not detected because it’s overexposed.
Years later when I invested in Lightroom I made the decision that I’d become familiar with it by attempting to fix some of my previous pictures, such as this waterfall photo here.
Here is the result.
I was not able to improve it, as much as I tried. Why? Because the photo was not taken properly to begin with. I tried to fix the highlights and reduce the brightness at the top to even out the light but it still does not work. I had to forget about this one unfortunately.
When waterfalls are taken on a bright day in the automatic setting we get one of two things. The waterfall is flawlessly exposed and all the surrounding elements, like your mountain range and cliff face is underexposed. (Too dark.) We might also be challenged by the surrounding things being just right and our waterfall being overexposed (too bright.) How do we get the waterfall and the surrounds both looking perfectly exposed?
I suggest using gentle light. A soft grey light will not only put emphasis on your green leaves and trees surrounding the waterfall, but it will not overexpose anything too much. You will still need to meter off the white water however.
You will observe that when capturing your waterfall in subdued light, it’s quicker to get improved exposure. The brighter areas are reduced and the shadows are not as strong. Light is refracted due to the cloud sand hence we get a subdued look in our photos.
Let’s take a look at some examples of what waterfalls look like in filtered light.
This photo was a 3 shot panorama. Water is tough when you capture panoramas. You have to have your shutter on extremely fast. I’ll talk about that in a different photography tutorial.
Let’s observe this photo a little more attentively. The light is coming from the upper part of the photo and we see shadowed areas in the rock face below. To be able to shoot this waterfall photo I made certain that I had the correct exposure. I metered off the waterfall. You see your waterfall will be the most luminescent thing in the shot so it is important to tell the camera to meter off that. This works especially well if you are spot metering.
This photo was taken from a fair distance, at the end of a very high platform, looking across a river. I wished to be able to have a more interesting vantage point but it was not physically achievable, so I made use of what I had.
How to take photos of waterfalls depends on your brightness, where you stand and getting the precise exposure. Once you have all three then you can enjoy going to the next level; editing. Sometimes bringing up the whites and shadowed areas by a fraction will help even out the light even more. You might want to increase the colour vitality, or boost one colour only. Take your time and find the right method that works for you. Soon your waterfalls will be appearing like masterpieces you will want to hang upon your wall.