10 tips to improve your underwater photos
March 2, 2016
I get many questions about my underwater photos. I have to admit that I’m struggling with the white balance settings since my last camera drowned. In the field of underwater photography, I am learning and discovering every trip I make. Still I want to share some of my best underwater photography tips with you:
1. Take pictures as close as possible
Underwater is less light available. This means that you should get as close to your subject as possible. At the same time, water is usually not very bright. The more water there is between you and your subject, the more likely it is that your image will be cloudy. But getting close to marine life is a challenge. Most of the time they don’t allow you to get as close as you need to take a good photo.
2. Move quietly
Less moving means less turbid water and loose particles from the ground. As the water moves less, you have less problems with airborne particles. Moreover, the chances that you scare away marine life is also much smaller when you move very quietly. Having your buoyancy under control is important. Last divingtrip it was my wish to take a really good shot from a sea horse. We found one, but it kept on turning away from me. When I turned with the sea horse, it turned away from me again and again. I needed to be still in the water for minutes before I finally had a good angle to take my picture.
3. Don’t touch the ground
When you hit the ground, you move all kind of particles that can ruin your shot. And don’t forget: while your are busy with your photo and you do touch the ground, you risk damaging rare corals or plants.
4. Be creative
Try to look beyond the traditional photos. I love sun rays shining through the water. Light refraction in the water is often stunning. Try to shoot up to catch those rays of sunlight. Also for other photos you can make good use of the available light by pointing the camera up slightly. Just make sure you don’t shoot directly at the sunlight.
5. Don’t go too deep
The deeper you go into the water, the darker it becomes. It will not surprise you that I took my best underwater pictures freediving and not scubadiving. Photos made at a shallower depth have amazing colours, because there is more natural light available. Colours change the deeper you go: the deeper, the less colour. First goes red, then orange, then yellow. Green and blue remain longest visible. From around 40 metres you have only blue left. An other advantage with snorkling is that you can be more still. Just hold your breath while taking the photo. When you are holding your breath, you will notice that the camera also moves less.
6. Know your camera
Because colours quickly fade, it’s important to know your camera, so you can play with the colour settings. It’s especially important to be able to change the white balance. Still your might want to improve your photos afterwards. So make sure to shoot in RAW-format.
7. Shoot from eye level
Your photos will be more striking when you shoot marine life from their eye level and not from above.
8. Use external light or strobes
Using the flash of your camera will cause airborne light in the water. This means a failed photo. Don’t use a flash but use light separately from your camera. When you use external flashes or strobes, keep in mind that you have about half the normal brightness available.
9. Keep the camera still
This is harder than you think, specially with current. To minimize the effects of camera shake, it’s advisable to hold the camera with both hands while you catch your elbows against your body. And remind: don’t touch the ground because you don’t want loose particles to ruin your photo.
10. Take lots of photos
Underwater you will certainly not take as many successful pictures as normal. So take a lot of extra pictures. There are so many variables that influence the quality of your photo. Underwater it’s also difficult to see on your screen if your picture is good or not. So play it safe and take lots of photos!
What are you missing in this list? What is your ultimate tip for underwater photography?