Niagara Falls Photography Guide with Doug Friesen

Professional Photographer Doug Friesen recently set social media ablaze with a number of breathtaking and spectacular photos of Niagara Falls. Doug was kind enough to share some of his photos and photography tips with the Marriott Fallsview Niagara Seasons Blog.

Hi Doug. Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to us. When did you start getting into photography?

My love for capturing memories began in my youth as I watched my dad use his film camera. Seeing life through the viewfinder became part of me. I was hooked.

And this evolved into a lifelong passion?

Absolutely. In the past decade and a half, I gained experience in the printing industry with a strong technical software background. In the past few years, I left the print industry and have begun to concentrate my creativity as a professional. I now live in Morden, Manitoba, Canada with my amazing wife.

Maid of the Mist 2015

Congratulations on pursuing your passion. In your opinion, what makes Niagara Falls a location worth shooting?

The entire Niagara region is an absolutely stunning Canadian destination, with photo opportunities around every corner.

Do you need to rent a car to see all of the attractions? Not at all. Many attractions are also within easy walking distance. Those that are not are easily accessible via WEGO public transportation. The main terminal can be seen from the hotel.

Niagara Falls Lilly

I enjoyed staying at the Marriott Fallsview in Niagara Falls, inside a room with an absolutely stunning view of the Canadian and American sides of the falls each morning and night. I recommend getting a room with a view. It will inspire you to get out and see the wonders that surround you.

What are mornings like when you wake up and look out your room window from the Marriott Fallsview? Grandiose. This is proof:

Marriott Fallsview Room View

While you are in the area, I would also strongly recommend a day trip out to Niagara On The Lake for some quieter time and winery tours. There is so much nature and beauty to be found.

Doug, do you have any tips for amateur photographers or those looking to take the best photos possible during a trip to Niagara Falls ?

Sure, here’s a brief overview of camera settings and how they can be used in Niagara.

Daytime Photography

Flower at Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory

If you are looking for that rich blue sky and well-detailed scene, shoot with the sun to your back. Plan the time of day that you want to photograph based on the position of the sun for best exposure, colour, and detail. In the example of the falls, the best time to photograph them from the Canadian side was early afternoon when they were fully exposed to sunlight.

Night Photography, the Falls & Fireworks

A tripod is highly recommended. If you don’t have a tripod, set down your camera on something solid such as a bench or rock (remember to keep it secure). Set the camera to self-timer mode. This helps to reduce camera shake from pushing the shutter button. Set your ISO to a low value in order to avoid as much digital noise as possible. Adjust shutter speed appropriately so that the image is well exposed (from 1/10 second to 15 seconds or more). Any moving subjects in the image would be blurred, while steady subjects would be sharp.

Niagara Falls Illumination

Digital Zoom

Avoid this feature on iOS/Android and all cameras. This feature will always result in a lower quality image. Only use the real optical zoom on a lens, if equipped.

Flash On or Off?

As a rule, turn off your flash unless the subject is less than 20 feet from you. Any further and it will be ineffective. If you have a camera with an external flash and you are photographing within a room, turn the flash head to the ceiling and or towards an upward wall corner behind you, as if you are trying to bounce the light. This is an excellent way to light up a room for a more natural image, rather than using direct flash.

Niagara on the Lake

How about for those using a Cell Phone?

In an attempt to mimic the controls of a real camera, the iOS Camera+ app features full manual control of ISO and Shutter speed, as well as the ability to lock exposure and focus at different spots on the screen, are highlights of this app. There is a large collection of editing options, filters, and frames that can be applied to the image after capture, though I use very few filters in my works.

Great overview, that should help many, myself included, take better photos around Niagara. Doug, Can you recommend some highlight locations for taking photos?

Sure, these are some of the clear highlights:

Horseshoe Falls

There is something about the power of millions of litres continually pouring over the edge as you stand and feel the ground move. I took the below image in the midst of a crowd holding the camera high. Typically images that are either taken at wider angles or more telephoto angles with a defined point of view are the most interesting. While you might not be aware, travelling to Niagara in the winter can result in some truly beautiful images of the falls in a frozen state.

Horseshoe Falls

Journey Behind The Falls

This is perhaps one of the best values in Niagara Falls. After descending 150 feet by elevator, you walk down the hallways behind the falls and see the power of rushing water from a unique place. The pinnacle of this attraction is making your way to the observation deck at the bottom of the falls. Take it all in. You should use a weather resistant camera or case for your phone to avoid moisture damage on days like this.

Journey Behind the Falls

Butterfly Conservatory

Not to be overlooked, the Butterfly Conservatory located at the Niagara Botanical Gardens is a special treat. Over 2000 butterflies will flutter and fly around you, landing occasionally on your shoulder to say ‘hello’ in their own way. Beautiful, colourful and fragile, they are of particular interest to children and families.

Butterfly Conservatory

Niagara On The Lake

Nestled into the countryside beyond all the activity in Niagara Falls is Niagara On The Lake. This is a beautiful small community on the edge of Lake Ontario that is home to nature, eclectic souvenir shops, eateries and a collection of Canada’s best wineries and the home of Ice Wine. Willow Cakes bakery has amazing pastries. I took part in spectacular vineyard tours that included Pillitteri Estates Winery and Konzelmann Estate Winery and spent an entire day there. Needless to say, I flew home with some new favourites.

Niagara on the Lake Winery Field


Niagara Falls Fireworks

A slower shutter speed will accentuate the light trails at this weekly event over the falls. Shutter speed will generally range from half a second to 5 seconds or more, depending on the effect you wish. Keeping the ISO low will result in an image with less digital noise (grain). Turn the flash off. A tripod or solid surface is recommended. Some cameras and phone apps will have a feature called night or fireworks mode, which you can also try.


Niagara Falls Rainbows

Wow, what a collection of great photos. Thanks for sharing these, where to go and camera tips with us Doug. Thanks again.

My pleasure.

About Doug Friesen, Photographer and Visual Artist

Doug Frisen

Inspired by ideas. Driven by passion. Photography is more than a simple image. As an artist, I see the heart and beauty of everything that surrounds me. Visit Doug’s website or purchase his prints using his Website / Online Store

About Marriott Fallsview

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