Waterfalls often make great subjects of photos, but its very easy to get a bad result if youre not paying attention when you click the button. Here are the top 4 mistakes photographers make, and the easy ways to improve your shots!
Mistake #1: Setting your camera to auto-select aperture and shutter speed
Metering is something that cameras generally do very well. They begin to fail, however, when you start to introduce very white or very black subjects in an image. The reason for this is because humans see in 16-stops, whereas cameras see no more than 5-stops. This means that images with high contrast are not correctly exposed when left to the cameras automatic settings if you have a lot of white in your subject of focus, the camera tends to make it grey in the final image, and correspondingly underexposes the rest of the image. Similarly, if you have a lot of black in your image, the camera tends to make the black turn out grey in the final image, thus overexposing the rest of the image.
Mistake #2: Photographing Waterfalls on a sunny day
Sunny days in the forest may be nice for close-up studies, but adding sun to a waterfall landscape is not a good idea the range of light and dark is so extreme that your compositions will be washed out or hidden in blackness. The best time to head out for a waterfall shoot is on an overcast day, with or without rain.
Mistake #3: Shooting Waterfalls without a polarizing filter
In a nutshell, polarizing filters cut the glare. Wet surfaces tend to reflect the sky colour, so youll actually need the polarizing filter more for rainy days where the sky colour is grey than for sunny days. But weve already agreed you shouldnt photography waterfalls on sunny days Removing glare from an image allows you to see the colourful world underneath the glare, and no amount of Photoshopping after your shoot will fix it.
=> Correcting Mistakes #1-3
The idea is to meter off the part of your composition that would be closest to medium grey, should the image be turned to greyscale. If your waterfall is surrounded by lush forest, try metering off nearby green leaves or grass never off the waterfall, and never off anything in shade. If youre photographing at dawn or dusk, meter off the sky. This will make the waterfall appear white, and the shady areas appear black. Its really very simple!
In automatic mode:
First, learn how to lock your cameras exposure so as to trick it into getting the right exposure. (Each camera is slightly different, so youll have to check your manual for more information.) Enable bracketing if youve got it. Point your camera at the green leaves or dusky sky, and lock your exposure. Re-focus your camera on the waterfall, and click the button this should tell your camera to expose the scene how we see it, and not what its algorithms have told it to do.
In manual mode:
Set your exposure to 2/3 of a stop. Point your camera at a spot nearby the waterfall that is neither bright nor dark. Set your aperture and shutter speed to whatever you prefer (see Mistake #4). Now point your lens at the waterfall and frame the scene in your viewfinder. Click the button and voilà beautiful exposure!
Mistake #4: Leaving your waterfall site without trying to slow the water motion on camera
Lets face it, its fun to try to make those ethereal shots of rapids or waterfalls where the movement of the water looks like silk. Why walk away from a waterfall if the conditions are right for taking such a shot?
=> Correcting Mistake #4
Its very simple; heres what you need to do:
– ensure the sky is overcast
– decrease your ISO setting to as low as possible
– consider enabled auto-bracketing on your camera, if you have it, or setting the exposure to 2/3 of a stop
– set your camera up on a tripod and frame your waterfall in the viewfinder
– lower your shutter speed to 1/15th of a second or less
– take a shot and check the histogram
– play with slower shutter speeds and different exposure bracketing