Photo Tips

  1. Introduction
  2. Basic camera use
  3. Wide angle
  4. Snoots
  5. Workshop

Photo Tips Introduction

Common Bigeye

Common Bigeye

In addition to displaying images on my site, this section provides techniques and guidance based upon my personal experience which may help your own underwater photography.

I'll start with some basics ...


Although I shoot with a housed DSLR rig, the majority of techniques and guidance are equally applicable to compact setups which is where I orginally started my underwater photography. The following is a list of basic guidelines to consider when starting out with underwater photography:

What is appropriate for me?

Since the advent of digital cameras, the underwater photography market has exploded with cameras and housing ranging from relatively inexpensive compact setups to full blown professional kit. For entry level photographers I would strongly suggest the purchase of a compact camera and housing. The majority of cameras are essentially for land based use with specialist poly-carbonate housings available. The cheapest cameras are little more than point and shoot, and wll produce adequate images. However they offer limited creative flexibility and a more advanced camera with access to Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual settings will allow greater scope for development of your photography.

IMPORTANT: As all cameras differ in layout and size, before you buy a camera for underwater use, ensure there is a suitable housing available for the particular camera model.

Building a system

The purchase of a camera and housing can be just the start depending upon your addiction to underwater photography. Using the basic camera and housing setup will provide adequate images, particularly of macro subjects using the camera's internal flash. However various attachmenets can supplement the basic setup; the key additions are:

  • External Strobe(s): The addition of one or two external flash guns will increase the area of coverage by providing greater output power and allow positioning of lighting to reduce backscatter and produce more creative lighting opportunities. A base plate and arms are required to attach the strobes to the camera housing.
  • Wide Angle Lens: Wide angle lenses allow the photographer underwater vistas such a shipwrecks and reefs. However even for smaller subjects, the wide angle lens allows photogrpaher to get closer to the subject, reducing the column of water between camera and subject and allowing strobe lighting to illuminate the subject.

Know your camera

Become familiar with you camera controls and settings on land. I would recommend taking images on land first with the camera alone, followed by the camera in the housing to become familiar with the camera features accessed through the housing controls. This will greatly enhance your ability underwater and reduce task loading when using the camera. In addition many cameras have menu settings allowing custom settings making camera operation simpler for common settings.

Get Close & Shoot up

There are a number of techniques for improving your underwater photographs. However at a basic level two tips are key:

  1. Get Close: The water column between subject and camera affects the clarity of the image, particularly where visibility is limited. Reducing the water column between camera and subject can greatly improve the final image. Basically get close and then get closer still.
  2. Shoot Up: By shooting upward at a slight angle towards the surface, subjects can be framed against the sea as a background. This makes the subject more prominant than those subjects shot in a downward angle towards the seabed or reef.

Backup image files

The images on your media card are your negatives. Cards can be lost, contents can be deleted or in some cases the card fails to function or data becomes corrupt. As such regular backup of card data is essential to mitigate against loss. Backup can be to your PC/laptop, to CD/DVD, to external harddisk or to media devices such as iPod or iPad. Typically I use a combination of devices both when travelling and at home

Organising photos

As your image library grows it can be increasingly difficult to find images. Creating a methodical approach to image organisation is essential from the outset to organise your image library in a manner that allows images to be found efficiently. A number of commercial software products exist including Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture as well as free applications such as Google' Picassa product.