Chasing Waterfalls

Chasing Waterfalls
A waterfall and moving water video tutorial presented by our very own Shannon Kalahan with accompanying lesson notes.

Tutorial Notes

First, what do you need?

  • Camera with adjustable shutter speed
  • Tripod
  • Timer / remote / intervalometer
  • A circular polarizer (if you have one) to help cut the glare
  • A neutral density filter if there is high flow
  • A wide angle lens if you intend to get close to the waterfall’s base, a zoom or long lens if you do not
  • A microfiber cleaning cloth if you get close enough for waterfall spray to hit your lens

When should you shoot?

  • Early or Late
  • Overcast days


  • If possible, put your aperture somewhere between f/8-f/16. The available light (and/or neutral density filters) will dictate how small your aperture is. The closer you get to f/22, the more diffraction you’ll need to deal with, so I recommend keeping your f-stop closer to the lens’s sweet spot, between f/8-f/11 on most lenses.
  • ISO 100 when possible - again, this will be dictated by available light. As long as you’re not shooting at dusk or dawn, you should be able to keep the ISO low.
  • Turn off image stabilization
  • Shutter speed needs to be slow, but “slow” varies depending on how much waterflow and light you have. For massive falls on a bright day, you might need 13 seconds and a 10-stop ND filter. For small cascades on an overcast day, you might be talking 1 - 2 seconds. Consult your camera’s light meter and image histograms to ensure you’re protecting the shadows and highlights.


  • Leading lines, especially those that make the viewer feel like they’re standing in the flow with you
  • Something to anchor the image or serve as a foreground element. Sometimes, that is a leading line.