It’s snorkeling season. If you’re ready to take your experience to the next level, then you might want to consider underwater photography with a diving camera. Thanks to readily available housings and underwater photography equipment, it’s easier than ever to take your artistic eye below sea level. Of course, you should already be a good diver (certified and all) before you add a camera. But if you’re eager to take underwater pictures, then swim through our tutorial.
You wouldn’t just stroll into your neighbor’s house and start poking around, would you? Well, the ocean is kind of like your neighbor’s house. Treat it with care, and its inhabitants with respect. Injuring an animal isn’t worth one great shot – even a string of great shots! Since it’s all but impossible to capture full spectrum light underwater without strobes, you need to get super close to creatures to take their picture. But not too close! Relax your breath, and swim in calmly. We also recommend using a ‘muck stick’ to navigate the sea floor. You can use your stick to maneuver around tight areas and stabilize your body. Just poke it into the ground as you go. That way, you don’t slam into anybody in pursuit of the perfect image. It’s also important to remember that there are plenty of camouflaged creatures that sting and bite. Using a muck stuck to keep you above the fray is as important for the fish as it is for you.
And be careful not to chimp! ‘Chimping’ refers to hitting an animal as you scroll through your shots. It’s easy to get excited about underwater photography, but it’s important to consider your surroundings at all times. There’s nothing worse than smacking a flounder with you camera seconds after you photograph it.
Ambient light (sunlight) is blue/green underwater. If you want to use majority sunlight to enhance your your images, then most of your photos will lack color and contrast. Instead, we recommend using strobes with short shutter speeds to provide continuous light and enhance color. Tray and lighting systems stabilize the mounted camera and manipulate strobes – two handed systems work best. Most systems give you the option to oscillate between manual or TTL EV strobe control for lighting. For manual, you adjust the strobe per shot, traditionally in direct relation to the aperture (ex: f/8 on the strobe and f/8 on the camera). This gives you better control, but TTL EV lets you focus more on the content of the image, since you’re never fumbling around with dials.
For the rest of your exposure settings, you need to balance ambient light with strobe light. Short shutter speeds are key to limiting sunlight. If you need a brighter image but you’ve already dialed up your strobe to full power, then we recommend dialing up ISO instead. Meanwhile, a very small aperture keeps the background mostly in focus, while a larger one blurs the background. If you want to capture a picture of the ocean floor in all its splendor, then you want a small aperture. If you want a single subject with beautiful bokeh, then try a larger one. Also, be sure your strobes are bright and you’re close to the subject when using a small aperture!Underwater photography is a whole new world of wonder. You’re going to shoot a lot. Like, a lot a lot – especially in the beginning. Taking pictures underwater means experimenting more than you would with regular photography. You’ll easily shoot hundreds of images per outing! Remember to be courteous, aim upwards for depth, and shoot in RAW files.
And if all else fails, just keep swimming.