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New to Underwater Photography?

You will see it time and time again on internet forums, blogs, how-to website, etc. The basics of underwater photography are a set by a few constant rules:

  1. Don’t damage the reef.
  2. Get close.
  3. Shoot up.
  4. Get on or below eye level of your subject.
  5. Be aware of the background. Isolate your subject.
  6. Think about the composition, ‘rule-of-thirds’.
  7. Just enough strobe lighting.
  8. Generally, Shoot in Full Manual. (See points 1-4 below).
  9. Know your current settings and check the histogram.
  10. Avoid hungry sharks :-).

These are not anything like a closely guarded secret, so why do new photographers not follow the rules and become frustrated with their photography?

I think the answer is that poor technique is actually a more comfortable and natural action as a diver. It’s more natural to keep a bit of distance, its definitely more comfortable to shoot down. And in the excitement of finding a special subject you often forget about composition and background. For me, it took probably the first 6-years of taking photos underwater before I started to stop and think “hey, that really doesn’t work, so leave it alone and look for something else”. Lately, I have come out of a dive and taken less than 20-frames. Not due to lack of subjects, but based on poor ambient light or poor visibility in the water, I have just not bothered because I know from experience that it just doesn’t work. You start to approach taking photos with more thought and planning.

I know following the rules is hard sometimes, but when you do, you will start to see a big shift in the quality of your images.

There are some other essentials that you need to get clear too when shooting in manual:

  1. Understand the relationship between ambient light and shutter speed.
  2. Understand the relationship between strobe light and aperture.
  3. Understand the disconnect between strobe light and shutter speed.
  4. Understand the relationship between aperture and depth of field.

I will get into strobe/ambient/shutter/aperture relationships in future posts.

Above all, just enjoy your sport, don’t let frustration discourage you. Ask questions and try things out. You will get there.