Monday 26 August 2013

I shot the Moray... but I did not shoot the Octopus

Diving Cyprus with Mediterranean Jacks
That's not really true to be honest.

When I am underwater, I tend to shoot everything and anything whether it moves or not!!

What can I say.... I just love underwater photography. Every opportunity I get (when I am not teaching or guiding) I like to take the camera and see what I can get.

My photos are not award winning but I do get many compliments for them and so, I would like to share my top 5 tips with you for taking underwater shots.


Diving in Cyprus with a firework anenomeYou will never... and I mean... ever... get a decent underwater photograph of anything if you cannot control your own buoyancy underwater.

We have enough problems with motion blur from that fast moving fish that will not pose for love nor money but add to the mix a photographer who is flailing around because their buoyancy control is none existent and all you will get is a blurred, out of focus nothing-ness.

Once you have control of your buoyancy and position underwater, you will find the results of your efforts much more appealing. Plus, you won't have lots of backscatter in your photographs from all the sand and silt you have kicked up and the photographers behind will be much more grateful because they can get a photo or two aswell.

This leads to my Second Tip


Shrimp mob mentalityAgain, this is about control and stability. You are more likely to get a sharp underwater photograph if you hold the camera with two hands, so when you depress the shutter button, the camera will not jerk underneath.

Obviously, this is much easier to do when you can control your buoyancy and have mastered finning techniques such as the back kick. In this way, you won't have to hold on to that rock or push yourself backwards, away from the subject with your finger on a ledge. Both hands will be free to keep the camera steady.


You have invested in a nice camera system with strobes and housing and somewhere in the bundle of knobs and dials, there is a manual setting which gives you control over the camera.

Find it and Use it.

Tubeworm using manual controls and flashManual white balance is a setting that is on most camera systems these days and if you are not already using it, well you should be (unless you are using a strobe then keep it in auto).

Middle range camera systems also offer a bit more control to the user. You will be suprised at the difference you can get in your underwater photographs if you can just learn to set the proper shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

You don't even need to be in the water to practice. Set about the house with camera in hand and get your family and friends to be the fish...ahem... I meant models!! You will soon pick it up and there is loads of information available on the web.

As a rough guide, here in Cyprus on dives down to around 20metres, I find that an ISO of 125, shutter speed no slower than 1/125th of a second and a middle of the road aperture of around 4.5 seems to work quite well. Sometimes I will adjust the aperture, depending on the effect I am looking for but generally I will adjust the amount of ambient light by changing the shutter speed.


The best life and colours are in the shallows, so if you are planning your dives for underwater photography stay within the first 15metres or so.

Of course, this isn't always possible. Sometimes the subject is found deeper or you are wanting to get images of a wreck down at 30-40metres and, if this is the case, my final tip is...


When you go deeper underwater, you lose ambient light and colours. Red is the first to go, then orange and yellow until finally, you are left with just blue.

The best way to put back lost colour at depth is to use a flash.

All cameras come with an internal flash, which can be used in underwater photography but, as soon as there are any particulates suspended in the water, you will find that you get a lot of backscatter. The further you can position the flash from the lens, the less noticable this effect is, which is why I recommend an external strobe.

Not only does it help reduce backscatter but you would usually mount the external strobe on a flexible arm, which means you can adjust the position of  the light to get numerous lighting effects on the subject.

Again, the external strobe offers more control for the underwater photographer.

With the Wide Angle lens, we can get closer to the subject, reducing the amount of blue water between us and giving better quality pictures and making the strobe more efficient.

So, from an amateur but extremely enthuaiastic Diving Photographer, these are my tips for better underwater photographs.

They are simple, common sense but I so often see people not applying them and wondering why the photos they take are not very good. Hopefully this will help you take better pictures.

Happy shooting everyone

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