When divers think about starting underwater photography they have many questions. One of the most common is what to learn first – Macro or Wide Angle. As an experienced underwater photographer, I recommend learning Macro first.
The reason for this is that it is easier to create good macro images while learning underwater photography. While getting comfortable with a camera the diver also gets experience with buoyancy. This skill is so important to become a good photographer, especially when doing wide angle.
When shooting Macro, divers are focusing on little things, and the background is not important. So, rather than meter the water for an ambient light exposure, macro photographers typically set their camera to F-22, for maximum depth of field and their shutter speeds to the fastest sync speed possible.
Depending upon camera brand, make, and model the range is 1/200th, 1/250th, 1/320th. This speed eliminates most ambient light and uses strobe light for illumination. Cameras these days are smart and many divers get great results by using TTL, or through the lens metering. This is when the flash determines how much power to put out based on settings and distance to subject.
A lot of divers do not shoot TTL, because they want to learn what their strobes will do, and then control the light. While this takes time, it is what I recommend. That way once you know what kind of light the strobes put out, your in compete control.
When learning how to create wide angle photographs with flash underwater, the photographer is doing two things at once. First metering the light for the background, then determining how much flash to put on the subject. As it takes a little while to figure out learning macro first helps the diver to master their buoyancy.
The last thing anyone wants is to have a great scene that becomes all stirred up by a divers poor buoyancy skills. there is lot going on in divers mind when metering and setting strobe power and position. All too many times I see divers flutter kicking above the bottom and not realizing that they have ruined their own photograph and all the other divers on the reef as sand and participants will be in the water.
IF interested in learning more about underwater photography, consider a private workshop.