The art of photography is becoming quite the hype nowadays.
Now more than ever, some of the most incredible photos are popping up all over social media as people look to showcase their talents and adventures.
Being full-time fish, Joey and I are not here to to give you tips on how to be a land photographers, so lets suit up in dive gear and take your picture taking talents underwater.
So you want to be an underwater photographer – well as with any sport, the key to success is practice and persistence. Only by trying, failing, adjusting and then trying all over again, will you learn and improve your shots.
Unlike land photography, taking pictures underwater is harder – but looking at the fantastic images that can be produced, it is well worth the struggle.
Joey and I are no photography experts by any stretch of the imagination. Scuba diving is our first passion. But if you are new to the underwater photography scene, here are some beginner tips and tricks that will get you well on your way to bringing your camera to a place where most people would never dream of taking theirs.
It’s not rocket science; if you want to be an underwater photographer, it’s imperative that you are comfortable in a water environment.
For those without a scuba diving certification; snorkel, free dive, and work on your breath holding skills. The ability to swim well, and in some cases fast, to catch up with a subject is a definite requirement.
For scuba divers, getting that scuba certification is not enough, you need to make yourself a good diver first. Work on that neutral buoyancy, get used to bulky gear, figure out how to dive without needing your hands.
Once you have mastered the art of being in the water only then should you think about accessorizing with camera gear!
Can you say clear, calm and controlled environment?
Make a local swimming pool your photography testing grounds. No matter how good of a diver you are, adding extra gear is going to cramp your style. Not only that but with photography there are so many different working parts to figures out, move, test, adjust… By learning the ropes and practicing in a pool, you can quickly grasp the basics before jumping into the open water.
Bring your gear, grab a buddy and dive into this prefect photography environment.
What some divers don’t realize is that light and color gets lost very quickly in an aquatic environment.
Shooting through water is tricky because water filters out light, which in turn affects your pictures. Red, oranges, and yellows are the first colors to go followed by greens and purples. The last colors you lose is blue.
A little light goes a long way in the underwater world. To bring back all the lost color and breath life back into your pictures, strobes are an absolute must when it comes to underwater photography. You can have the best camera in the world but if you don’t pair that with decent lighting, your pictures will be dull, monochromatic and fuzzy.
If you don’t have strobes – get some, if you have strobes but don’t use them – learn how. How do you choose what strobes to buy?? Our advice, get the highest powered strobes your budget can afford – you’ll thank us later!
Just kidding, well sort of…
Capturing breathtaking images on its own is challenging. Pair that with scuba diving and the task can almost seem impossible.
Controlling your buoyancy, keeping track of your air, navigating, watching for hazards, watching your buddy… When you’re buried under camera gear, it’s easy to tune the world out and focus exclusively on getting that perfect shot.
As an aspiring underwater photographer, spend as much time as you can underwater with or without camera gear, so you can learn to multitask and keep safety a priority.
You may think you’re close to your subject – but let me tell you, you’re not.
Subject proximity is a crucial part of underwater photography. As stated above, light disappears quickly under the waves, because water is 800 times denser than air. Therefore the closer you are to your subject, the better said subject will look in your photograph.
If you are using strobes getting nice and close will help capture the best detail and reduce the chance of backscatter.
So move in as close as possible and fill your frame with the subject.
Want to make your subjects pop?
Search out animals that don’t blend in with their environment to draw attention to the subject you are photographing.
Green on red, solid color on a patterned background, a colorful gorgonian with a diver silhouette in the background… Unless you’re playing a game of Where’s Waldo – different is what makes a picture stand out among the masses.
Perspective is everything when it comes to underwater photography. Anybody can go snorkeling and see the dorsal side of a fish. Captivating underwater pictures are taken when the photographer get eye level with a fish.
When possible, get low and shoot from below looking up. This low positioning will create separation in your image, isolating your subject against the water column, as opposed to a jumbled mess where what you are photographing gets lost in the seascape of colors.
Likewise, if you’re shooting a creature, getting low will allow you to focus on the subjects eye, or if you’re shooting an underwater landscape, you will be able to use some of the natural light to add an extra dimension to your picture.
Exception: As always there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes when it comes to turtles, sharks and whales shooting from above onto a contrasting bottom or open ocean can be pretty spectacular.
Arg! The dreaded image sorting and post-processing battle.
As tedious as post-processing may seem, it’s something that can’t be ignored, especially when it comes to underwater photography.
Photographing in the underwater world is imperfect by nature. You’re battling limited lighting, backscatter, refraction, moving critters, color loss… and that’s just naming a few. By bringing your images into a photography software, you can correct and refine some of the pictures that didn’t quite get captured as you saw them.
Most photographers have conflicting emotions when it comes to this stage of underwater photography and depending on who you talk to; everyone has a different opinion on which digital software is best. For us, the consensus is Lightroom and Photoshop. The software may seem tricky to master at first, but once you get the basics, these programs do a top notch job at photo touch-ups.
The world of underwater photography is a sophisticated yet rewarding endeavor in which this guide only scratches the surface. A dirty little secret of any photographer is that no matter how many years you have been in the field or how elaborate your setup is, anyone with a camera is still always learning new tips and tricks on how to use it. Enjoy every second of your journey beneath the surface into the world of underwater imaging.
For more advanced underwater photographers, what is your one favorite photography trick?
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Ikelite compact ball arm for quick release handle
Bare drysuit drawstring scuba gear bag the perfect alternative for transporting a dry suit to-and-from the dive site
Black Mares Dragon Scuba Diving BCD
Capture amazingly smooth shake-free video with the GoPro Karma Grip
Bare 7mm thick elastek dry suit hood
The Hydra 5000 WSRU is an all in one photo and dive light with wide, spot, red, and UV modes
Black Mares Cruise Roller Tauchen bag, perfect for scuba diving and traveling
Black scuba diving turtle fins
Ikelite aluminum digital camera tray with dual handles
SHOOT 6″ Underwater Dome Port for GoPro Hero 6/Hero 5/Hero(2018) Black Camera Diving Lens Hood Housing Photography with Waterproof Case Accessories
Ikelite TTL dual flash sync cord attaches two strobe’s to the underwater camera housing.
13-inch inflatable dive buoy with a 12 by 11-inch scuba diving flag surface marker
DUI heavy duty dry suit gloves with yellow liners available in sizes: S, M, L, XL
Scuba diving 4ft neon yellow surface marker signal tube with “Diver Below” print
GoPro dual battery charger conveniently charges two HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black, or HERO camera batteries simultaneously
Capture amazingly smooth GoPro footage in the air with the GoPro Karma Drone
Ikelite Canon EOS 100D Rebel SL1 underwater camera housing in white
Compact underwater scuba diving hand reel with a 150ft of white line on the spool
Bare drysuit trek boots designed for rocky shore entries, boat decks, and boat ladders
Compact scuba diving finger spool with 150ft of white line and a 4-inch brass double-ended clip
Ikelite underwater macro lens casing is comprised of an acetyl body with glass front and can hold lenses of 4.37 diameter x 3 inches (111 x 76 mm)
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod and Bag with adjustable-height legs and rubber feet
If you’re not quite ready for the expense of big lights, this little video light goes perfectly with any GoPro setup
Mini blue scuba diving tank key ring with brass pick tool and o-rings
GoPro HERO6 Black Camera
Suunto Vyper Novo wrist scuba diving computer with USB
Rechargeable Ikelite NiMH battery pack compatible with Ikelite’s DS125, DS160, and DS161 strobes.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Diving lens filter kit for GoPro HERO 5/6 which enhances colors for underwater video and photography conditions
Suunto SK-8 wrist compass with bungee straps, faster stabilization, and enhanced readability
Bare SB System Mens Full Under-layer
Ikelite photography strobe DS161 with NiMH rechargeable battery pack
Canon Macro Lens EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM – non Image Stabilised
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom Lens for Canon Digital DSLR Camera + 32GB Memory Card + Photo4Less Cleaning Cloth.
Flexible Lightweight Portable Tripod for Projector DSLR Cameras and Go Pro
Dry glove lock system that accommodates all hand sizes