Five Tips for new underwater photographers

by Douglas Hoffman on August 11, 2021

Symphony of Color

#1 Proper finning is one of the most important factors when creating photographs underwater. All too many divers, new and experienced, kick in a manner that stirs up the bottom sediment. Turbidity is the result and as the particles float in the water column they reflect strobe light causing even more problems. The trick is to practice how to kick without creating an underwater dust storm. Some divers change the way they kick in these situations, others may change their positioning and have the legs high in the water column and the heads lower. Each diver is different and should practice what feels comfortable with the goal of not stirring up the bottom. Remember currents can take the sediment down the reef and ruin the visibility for another diver/photographer. So be aware.

#2 Buoyancy control. The ability for a diver to be able to hover, and adjust position underwater without floating up tot the surface, stirring up the bottom, or damaging coral is key to creating great photographs.

#3. Set up for the shot you want to take before you get to the position needed. Let’s say you want to photograph a octopus on a rock. Adjusting your buoyancy, changing the camera settings, and strobe power as well as position before you move in to shoot will prevent you from stirring up the sand, breaking coral on the reef, or scaring the marine life away. If shooting wide angle be sure to meter the the back ground and set your strobes to light the subject.

#4 Be patient. Take your time and go slow, that does not mean hold your breath or rush the moment. The subject might turn and present a better angle if you allow it space and time. Some fish or even an octopus can become comfortable with your presence and demonstrate natural behavior. Never move a subject for the sake of a photo.

#5 If you want to be the best photographer you can be, shoot everything in manual from camera settings to strobes. At first this may seem a bit more difficult but as you get experience and understand what happens when you change strobe settings, shutter speeds, and F-stops you will know exactly what your equipment can do, and then exercise you own creativity to create you own style. Shooting TTL, enables the photographer to concentrate on the dive but lets the camera decide how much light to put out. For many divers this is preferred. I am old school and want to know how much light is being put out so I can control the it, while at the same make sure the transition from shadow to highlight is smooth not not hard.

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