Ambient light underwater photography

by Douglas Hoffman on October 21, 2021

I get asked questions by people with GoPros, cellphones, point and shoot, and DSLR cameras. One of the most common is, how to great images while snorkeling using only ambient light.

Creating stunning portraits without using flash is quite possible. Below, are the steps to follow. These images were all created using shutter priority and set at 1/1250th of a second.

Time To Reflect
  1. Always have the sun behind you.
  2. Set a fast shutter speed to freeze action. I suggest 1/200th-1/500th of a second.
  3. Avoid jerky movements in the water.
  4. Never approach marine life, but be patient and allow it to come to you
  5. Set camera on continuous drive and shoot bursts.
  6. Set camera to fire only when in focus.
  7. Set camera to focus mode that allows you to choose center, spot, or matrix, or if you want to use focus tracking.
  8. Use shutter priority rather than manual as depth of filed underwater is not as critical freezing the action
  9. If using manual to control shutter speed and depth of field, set ISO to AUTO.
  10. If using aperture control Set the desired depth of field and adjust ISO until you get the desired shutter speed.

If trying to photograph friends and family with turtles, remember they are endangered specie so don’t touch. Be sure to give them space underwater and never cut them off. I know it’s hard to tell but the snorkeler is about 10 feet behind the turtles.