In this article, I am going to guide you through step by step how to take and process waterfall photos were taken with a smartphone. In this case with an iPhone, but basically, you can do this with almost any type of smartphones.
This tutorial is going to cover a waterfall shooting.
My phone was not able to cover the whole area, so I took two photographs and combined them together in Photoshop.
I have included my shots and a PSD file to help you better understand and walk along with me in this tutorial to process waterfall photos.
Step 1 – Get the Shots
So the first step is to get to your desired location and set up your composition. As I mentioned don’t worry if the phone can’t cover the whole area you want to photograph. Simply take two shots.
Read this article if you want to learn more about compositions.
At this location, I turned my phone into landscape mode and took one photo of the bottom and one picture of the top to capture the whole waterfall.
Quick tip: with iPhones, you can convert your photos into long exposures if you set the shooting mode to “Live”. It’s a bit challenging to hold the phone steady, therefor it’s better to have a tripod for your phone. Check this article for mor information.
I haven’t used the built-in “Live” long exposure mode. I was arriving late to the waterfall and it was quite dark so I played with the exposure instead.
Step 2 – Merge Photos
Time to work and process waterfall photos. First, we need to combine the two photographs together in Photoshop, don’t worry it’s going to be super easy, just follow my instructions.
Once the files are opened go to the menu and select File-Automate-Photomerge. Make sure the Reposition option is selected and the content aware fill as well. On the right side select Add Open Files. Once it’s loaded hit OK and Photoshop will do the rest for you.
We have the two images combined together but it needs a little bit of work on cropping. Once we fix that we can jump over to start processing the image since it has very low contrast and saturation. I cropped the right part of the image since it was not interesting.
Step 3 – Process Waterfall Photos
By the time I was shooting at this location it was getting dark, so we need to brighten up the image. Press the adjustment icon on the bottom of the layers window and select “Curves…” Once you added it is going to appear as a new layer above our waterfall picture layer.
Adjust the exposure to place a point in the middle of the line and drag it up to brighten the picture globally, see in the picture below.
To keep our PSD file organized. Rename the Curves layer to Global Brightness.
Don’t forget to save it as well.
We need to add more saturation to those green leaves. Click to add a new adjustment layer and select “Saturation”. To pop those colors on those leaves, go to the Yellow channel and set the saturation to 50. Unfortunately, it’s going to affect the water as well, so we need to add a mask to exclude those areas of the adjustment.
- Hit “E” it brings up the Eraser Tool.
- Set the color to white
- Erase on our mask layer, to exclude saturation on the water and the rock
Now we are going to modify the color of the water in the foreground. To achieve that, add another saturation adjustment layer and pull the Hue slider to the left into the green/blue color zone.
We also need to mask on this adjustment layer as well to only apply the effect on the water. Use the same masking technique what we used for the Leaves saturation layer.
Don’t forget to stay organized and rename your layers.
This effect will add a nice punch to our scene, It will add more saturation, contrast and a dreamy look.
We could easily ruin our image if we add too much of this effect. So just take it easy.
Select all layers and group them by pressing Ctrl+G or Command+G, Rename it to Waterfall. Duplicate the Waterfall group by pressing Ctrl+J or Command+J. Right click on our Waterfall Copy group and select Merge group. Our layer panel should look like the image below.
First, we need to add Gaussian Blur, so go to Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur and set it to 40.
The second step is to add Brightness and contrast. Go to Image – Adjustments – Brightness/Contrast. Add a quite high number, for example, I used 50 for Brightness and 25 for Contrast.
Although this effect is very strong, so set the layer Opacity to 12%. You can play here to achieve the best look you want. It absolutely depends on your taste.
Rename our layer to Orton Effect
To draw the viewers attention more to the waterfall, we can create a vignetting effect on the edges of the picture. We don’t need the effect on the sky, we will exclude that with a Blending mode.
- Create a new layer
- Hit “B” to select the Brush tool. Set the size to 2200 and the hardness to 50%
- Set the brush Opacity to 100% and paint one big dot in the middle.
Once we have our white brush dot in the middle we need to transform into an oval shape.
Press Ctrl+T or Cmd+T to transform, and stretch the top and bottom parts.
Now we have to create a selection by pressing and holding down the Ctrl or Cmd button and click with our mouse on the layer thumbnail.
We have the oval selection now, but we need to invert it.
- Hold down Shift+Ctrl or Cmd and press “I” to invert our selection
- Create a New Layer
- Make sure on the toolbar the black is in the background
- If so, hold Ctrl or Cmd press Backspace to fill our selection with Black color
If you followed the steps correctly you should see something like this.
Adjust the layer size and opacity to the point where you are satisfied, I set mine to 20%.
You remember we need to exclude the sky, to achieve that set the layer Blending mode to “Soft light“.
We are curious how you guys process waterfall photos, we would like to see what you came up with. Send us your images to firstname.lastname@example.org email.
If you have any questions share in the comment section below.