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Photographing Waterfalls: Basic Tips

Waterfalls are a popular photography subject, but how do you capture a unique, compelling picture of them? Landscape photographer Edwin Martinez has photographed them countless times, and in this 2-part series, he shares with us some tips based on his experience. (Text by: Edwin Martinez)

EOS 5DS/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 16mm/ f/8/ 1/8 sec/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto

Waterfalls are one of the most elegant subjects in landscape photography. The world is full of these wonders; the Philippines alone has thousands of waterfalls. There are many different types of waterfalls: cascade, plunge, multi-step, tiered, punch bowl, etc. Each has its own beauty to behold. I have photographed these subjects countless times, and here, I share some tips based on my experience. 


1. Include interesting layers in your composition
These layers could be anything, from mossy rocks, to flowers, to curved lines of cliffs. Add these layers as anchor points to your photos.

Haifoss, Iceland
EOS 5DS R/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 16mm/ 2.0 sec/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto


2. Technique plays an important part in photographing waterfalls
Use slow shutter to have that bridal veil effect. A shutter speed from ¼ to 4 seconds is the optimal, it blurs the water but still leaves enough details. Long exposure can also work for strong or bigger waterfalls: 30 seconds to 1 minute usually works for me.

Waterfall from Lake Sebu
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 18mm/ f/11.0, 1/5 sec/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto


Kirkjufellfoss, Iceland
EOS 5D Mark IV/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM/ FL: 16mm/ f/16.0, 61.0sec/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto


3. Use lens filters to achieve the technique
Use an ND filter that is between 6 to 10 stops to achieve slow shutter or long exposure effects.

Waterfalls in Lake Sebu
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 16mm/ f/20.0/ 5.0sec/ ISO 50/ WB: Auto
A 6-stop ND filter was used to capture this image.


4. For your basic exposure setting, use f/8 to f/16
This will give you sharper results. Use ISO 100 to 200 to reduce noise, and always use a timer or remote.

Baerfoss, Iceland
EOS 5DS/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 16mm/ f/11.0, 6.0sec/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto


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Edwin Martinez

Edwin Martinez

Travel and Nature Photographer

When one speaks of travel and landscape photography at its apex, his name quickly comes to mind. Well known locally and gaining recognition abroad for his ethereal landscape images, his works exemplify landscape photography as a fine art.

A former medical and corporate professional, Edwin has found his niche and true calling in landscape photography. Still imbibed with the commitment and dedication for always achieving his best, these qualities are now his staples, whether he is shooting for clients or himself, mentoring photographers that join him in the tours that he guides in Iceland, Norway, Canada, the American west and other parts of the world or teaching in workshops under Wide Horizon Photo Adventure (

Edwin’s excellence has been recognized by brands that support his projects. By virtue of his acknowledged skill and influence, he has been tapped to field test and help in the launch of a number of new photography gear.  His works have graced both local and overseas publications and websites. Edwin’s images surely speak the language that draws attention and leaves an indelible mark of excellence.

To connect with or learn from Edwin, visit his social media accounts:

Introductory video:
Instagram page: