Beginning underwater photographers can be overwhelmed with all the challenges they face. This tutorial touches on three techniques to help you get better shots.
One of the first challenge a new underwater photographer will face is how to take an image of a marine animal so that it “pops” out from its environment. This is because as a scuba diver, we are swimming along horizontally in the water, looking down on the subjects below. Many new photographers will snap images focused straight down because that is the perspective they have of the subject.
1. Get Close. For example: Below is an image of an anemone full of various fish. This can be an exciting thing to see, and something you may want to share with your topside friends. However, from this perspective, the fish are too small, taking up only a fraction of the frame. The black fish are hard to recognize as fish, and the photograph has too many subjects.
Get closer and adjust the angle of the camera so that it is more at eye level with your subject. Shoot with the lens pointed up at your subject, and you will have a much more pleasing result. The image below has just the anemone fish as the subject, and the fish is looking at the camera. The anemone itself becomes interesting background material without distracting our eye from the fish.
2. Get Down. Sometimes, this is much easier said than done, as some subjects are in a crevice or are very tiny and hard to separate from their environment. Nudibranchs are a great example of this. The image below is of a rarely seen Hypselodoris californiensis (California Chromodorid). Shot from above, all the details of the nudibranch’s rhinophores and gills are lost.
You can acheive a much more interesting result by facing the animal head on, by moving to a place where it is easier to shoot at “eye level”.
3. Change Perspective. The same principle applies to wide angle photography. In the following photograph, I wanted to show the thousands of fish on the reef. I pointed my lens directly at them, but the reef in the background makes them hard to see.
To make the fish “pop,” it is necessary to isolate them from the background. You will want to get right next to the reef leaving the water as the background for the fish, as in the image below:
With a few adjustments, it is easy to improve your underwater photography. Remember to get close, get down, and change perspective!