The sea holds many secrets and one way of exploring them is through underwater photography. This exciting photography, when done correctly, is very rewarding and can end up being a full-time career. However, it is quite difficult since you are shooting in a whole new environment and in most cases, the common rules of photography change.
Then there is the challenge of limited air supply and the pressure of water crashing against your body. But that’s not all, underwater photography warrants a whole lot of camera gear in order to get excellent shots as well as to prevent irreparable damage to your equipment. All these hurdles can leave even the most experienced photographers frustrated and defeated.
But then again, we have all seen those breathtaking photos of the sea. How do they do it? By doing lots of practice, having lots of patience and most importantly, having passion. That said, let’s dive in (no pun) to the most basic tips on underwater photography.
Underwater Photography Tip #1
Diving Should Be Second Nature
I know you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking duh! By saying you should be good at diving I mean that you ought to be exceptional. No water skills should be basic to you in order to be settled enough to take photos. You also risk interfering with the underwater environment by being inexperienced as you will most likely crash into plants destroying them. Worse, you risk injuring yourself or losing track of time and running out of air.
Don’t confuse diving in a pool with scuba diving. This is a whole new ball game since the pressure in the sea is much greater than that in a pool. If you are not good at diving or are doubting your diving skills for any reason, diving lessons are a must. Take a one-week diving class before getting into photography, it will not only be loads of fun but it may be the start of your new underwater photography career.
Underwater Photography Tip #2
Be Ready To Shoot At Close Range
As you would expect, water is way denser than air, (about 900 times denser) this makes it really hard to cut through sea water and come up with clear shots. To solve this, you will have to master shooting at close range. Move very close (but smoothly) to your subjects and then take the shot. This will result in color filled and quite frankly more realistic photos. You have to master this without spooking the fish. Slowly swim toward the sea creatures with your camera already in position (to avoid sudden movements) it creates a sort of rapport with the creature you are about to shoot.
Underwater Photography Tip #3
You are going to be using your wide angle lens a lot since most underwater photos are appealing when shooting wide since you incorporate a great part of the sea. It also comes in handy when dealing with long creatures such as dolphins or sharks, incorporating their whole body into the frame.
A macro lens is another invaluable equipment that you ought to have with you while under. This is because you will be shooting from close range and looking to capture every little detail. There is no need for having a normal or telephoto lens as you will not be needing them here. Also, forget about normal focal lengths since the environment is not well lit and some subjects are usually dull.
Underwater Photography Tip #4
What Is The Best Angle To Shoot From?
Most underwater photographers invest in expensive 45 and 90-degree viewfinders for this reason. But I will tell you for free that most of the time, you will be shooting upward. This allows you to capture creatures together with the natural sea plantation and creatures in view. Shooting down will give the viewer an entirely wrong picture as the shot will be a mess of sea creatures jumbled up with plants and particles at the bottom.
However, when working with creatures whose distinction is their back, shooting from above is allowed. Just align your camera right in order to end up with realistic shots. Such creatures include sharks and turtles among others.
Underwater Photography Tip #5
Great Exposure Is Key
I know this is fundamental in any kind of photography but for underwater photography, you have to go the extra mile to properly expose your photos or risk losing it all. Unlike normal photography, artificial lighting is paramount in this case but you have to make it blend in with the surrounding to avoid your shots seeming fake. For this, you have to go back to the basics, shooting in manual.
Adjust the ISO settings to a suitable point then to expose the foreground, you will work with your aperture and strobe’s lighting settings. The background needs to be well exposed too which can be achieved by working on your shutter speed. Clearly, a lot of experimentation is required to get the perfect shot but once you get the settings right you a good to go. To recap, start with ISO settings then aperture and strobe light and finally set your shutter speed. These four are the key to great exposure. Also, try to aim the strobe or whatever source of light correctly to avoid backscatter.
One last thing…
If you are a beginner in underwater photography, you have a long way to go before you can finally get great shots. Don’t be intimidated by professional photographers as they have taken a couple of years to master what they do. Instead, have a whole lot of patience and trust the process rather than struggle to cram a bunch of rules.
Speaking of patience, you will be needing it while under the sea. This is especially if you are a beginner due to experimenting with light and shooting at angles. Take this as a chance to get firsthand experience and in time, it will be a lot easier. Finally, don’t be hesitant to edit your final shots using a good app such as Adobe light room to expose your pictures some more. It’s not all the time that you get lighting right, remember, you have limited time.
Finally (for real this time) think about it, you are underwater, I personally think it doesn’t get better than this. So while taking shots, remember to have fun doing it!