- Plan your underwater shoot from 10am–2pm, when the sunlight is the strongest and will penetrate the deepest.
- If you don’t find interesting natural objects and subjects underwater, then ask a friend to be your model.
- Move closer to your scene or subject because looking through a facemask makes them appear to be 25% closer. The closer you are, the less water between you and your subject, which helps to decrease distortion.
- Scenes and objects don’t have to be very deep to start to lose their colors, especially if the sunlight isn’t at its strongest. You’ll notice the loss of reds first. Your best solution is to use the built-in flash on the underwater camera.
- Try some silhouettes of your friends. With the sun in front of you, you can silhouette a person against the sun-lit waters. Swim with the sun behind you and you’ll capture the colors of a bright bathing suit against a dark background.
- In most cases, you want to shoot from below your subjects, which creates a more dramatic picture. The only reason to shoot toward the bottom of the ocean or a lake is if it is sandy, white and reflective. That is an excellent background for a darker subject swimming or moving above it.
- Before you trip the shutter, check that there is no dive gear, bubbles, etc. in your frame.
- You may have to make some adjustments to your shutter speed because movement is slower under water, so be ready to bracket your exposures.
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Photographers were shooting spectacular underwater images long before the advent of digital photography, so most of the techniques and tips haven’t changed much. This PhotographyTalk.com article doesn’t go into great depth about the kind of cameras to use underwater or complex techniques (Check the Digital Photography Equipment Review section), and that’s on purpose. Instead, this article is meant to create interest in underwater photography, with the casual use of a waterproof, single-use underwater camera, at the pool or during your next beach vacation. There’s no need to invest in any equipment until you know you want to pursue underwater photography as a hobby.
Another option is to rent a more elaborate underwater rig: a DSLR camera in an underwater housing. That is probably a better second step, however, after you’ve experienced underwater photography with a single-use model. Eventually, you may want to contact local dive organizations that offer underwater photography lessons. There are also vacation packages that are centered on learning and experiencing underwater photography for an entire week.
At the Pool or Beach
A good place to start your underwater photography experience is in the safer and manageable confines of a swimming pool. You can learn how to handle the camera in a wet environment; and if it falls to the bottom of the pool, then you don’t have far to go to retrieve it. Use your friends or family members as practice subjects. Shoot images from various angles above the water, at the water line, and then underwater.
You have less control of the environment on the beach, which is another reason to keep your expensive DSLR camera at home or in security lockup at your hotel. Salt, sand and water can easily penetrate the interior mechanism of most cameras and ruin them quickly. That’s why a disposable, waterproof camera is the best choice when you first experience underwater photography at the beach.
When you’re ready to take the plunge—literally!—make sure to follow all of the local safety rules as well as those related to snorkeling and scuba diving. The most important is to remember you are entering other creatures’ environment and they have natural defense mechanisms that could be dangerous, so be aware of your surroundings. You must also watch for other people enjoying the surf and sea, from surfers to boogie boarders to watercrafts of all kinds.
Other underwater photography tips to consider:
Once you’ve had your first experience with underwater photography, using a single-use, waterproof camera, you may be ready to concentrate on this sub-category of photography. This is especially true if you live near the ocean, and great dive locations. Even if don’t become a full-fledged underwater photographer, you can always purchase another single-use camera for your next vacation and know you have the skills to shoot even better underwater photography.