Diving truly is an addictive hobby, but throw underwater photography in the mix and your dives are taken to a whole new level. To capture that manta ray gliding by, or bring out the electric colours of a cool nudibranch is a fantastic feeling of achievement, but sometimes the pictures don’t quite turn out the way you hoped they would.
Fortunately, there are just a few tweaks you can do that can help to make the difference between an average photo and a great photo!
Tips & Techniques For Perfect Images
Master Buoyancy Control
Good buoyancy control is key to getting a good photo. Practice just using your breath to gently rise and fall, and once you have that under control you should be able to then reduce any shaky movements when taking the photo and avoid kicking up silt and sand which will inevitably end up in your shot (or someone elses!).
Holding the camera with both hands when taking the picture also helps to create a clear and focussed shot.
Get Closer To Your Subject
Once you have your buoyancy mastered you’ll want to do get up close and personal for several reasons, one of which is that the closer you are to your subject, the less water between your subject and the camera lens, and therefore less particles showing up on your photo.
The other plus to getting closer is that your subject will start to fill the frame instead of appearing like a dot in the distance (unless your subject is a Juvenile Box Fish, then it will just be a dot in the distance).
Start shallow to get more light in your pictures. As we go deeper we lose colour, and in fact the first 10 meters of water is where we can get the most vibrant shots. If you don’t have expensive strobes to use, then staying shallow and using ambient light is a great place to start.
Look Out for Your Buddy
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your buddy. It’s very easy to get distracted when trying to get the perfect shot, and we can sometimes loose track of our surroundings including our buddy. Also make sure you keep an eye on other safety factors, such as air, depth & no-deco time.
Know Your Equipment
Having the right equipment can make all the difference, but so does knowing how to use it. If you’re new to underwater photography then start out with something small and easy to transport, but that will also allow you to progress with your photography.
Try to get a compact that allows you some control of the settings, so that you can progress from simple ‘auto point and shoot’ to manual settings without the need to buy a new camera.
Once you have mastered the basics of underwater photography you may want to start investing in other accessories to go with your camera, such as strobes, lights and lenses (macro & wide angle).
Macro v Wide Angle Photography
There are two main types of underwater photography, macro (focussing on the smaller things like nudibranchs, frogfish, scorpion fish, seahorses) or wide angle photography (focussing on larger marine life such as manta rays, sharks, whale sharks).
Macro photography is perfect if you’re just starting out as generally the subject stays still, allowing you to get close, and therefore reducing the amount of particles between you and the subject, but you do need to have your buoyancy under control.
Wide angle photography is great for capturing the bigger life, but can be more challenging due to factors like currents, visibility and generally the fish swimming away causing problems. But that’s all part of the fun!
Macro Photography Hotspots
Indonesia offers some amazing macro diving. Notable destinations are Lembeh Strait, famous for its volcanic black sand and crazy critters such as wonderpus and hairy frogfish, and Ambon, home to the Ambon Scorpion fish.
Malaysia is also fantastic for macro diving. On the Borneo side of the country Mabul and Kapalai, close to Sipadan, have amazing sites for critters and fantastic artificial reefs just covered in frogfish, nudi’s and ghost pipefish.
Wide Angle Photography Hotspots
If it’s the big stuff you’re interested in then you can’t go wrong with the Galapagos. Known for schooling hammerheads, whale sharks, playful sea lions and much, much more, the Galapagos a wide-angle photographers delight!
Another hot spot for big fish is Mexico. The Socorro’s are home to possibly the world’s friendliest manta rays, coming within 1meter of divers! There are also humpback whales and schooling hammerhead sharks during certain times of the year.