Underwater Photography Tips
Taking good underwater
photographs takes time, experience, and good equipment. Here
are some tips to help you improve your subsurface shots,
particularly if you're not a pro:
If you're diving with a group, it's hard to take the time you may
need to compose a good picture. While you're composing, the
group will either swim on forcing you to catch up later, or will
wait impatiently for you to take your picture. For this
reason, solo shore or boat diving with a buddy gives you the
uninterrupted time to compose your shots. Diving on
liveaboards provides this opportunity, too. If you are with
a group, be respectful of their diving experience, too, and do the
best you can without holding them up.
Shoot lots of pictures.
Undersea photography is the same as surface wildlife photography
in this aspect. You need to take a lot of pictures to get a
few good ones. You probably won't have the opportunity to go
back to the same place again, much less set up the same shot.
Be sure you have plenty of film with you.
Get close. Due to
lighting, water conditions, etc., it's often easier to take
Plan ahead. Often it's
easier to decide what kind of shots you want to take while you're
still on the surface. You can set up your camera ahead of
time. While many cameras allow you to change lenses
underwater, switching from micro to macro down below isn't always
Lighting. You can't rely
on natural light to help you much at depth. You'll need
flashes, strobes, and lights. Inadequate light is one of the
primary reasons underwater shots don't turn out well. If you take
a disposable camera housed in a waterproof case and rely on the
built-in flash, you can't expect to get great shots. (Stay as
close to the surface as you can if this is your setup.
You'll need help from as much natural light as you can get.
Stay with close-ups, too.)
Keep steady. Easier said
than done. Currents, your buoyancy and breathing, and sea
life movement within your composition will all conspire to blur
your shot or make you hurry. Practice will show you how to
control some of these factors, but can you make that fish just
hang in one spot until you're done?
Refraction. When you're
underwater, objects will appear closer than they actually are.
Fortunately, both you and your camera see the distance the same
way. Set your distance setting to the apparent distance, not
to the actual distance.
Backscatter. Water is not
transparent. There are millions of tiny particles floating
in it. They will cloud your picture and reflect the light
from your strobe or flash. Two ways to reduce backscatter
are to not stir up the bottom, and to position your strobe