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5 tips for beginners underwater photographers

So you fell in love with diving and you want to use underwater photography to show your friends what you keep going on about? Great idea, nothing like a powerful image to share the love of the ocean!

However, if you are just getting started with underwater photography, you might be a bit disappointed with your first shots, or not even sure where to start. So here are some tips to get started in underwater photography.

Turtle along the reef in Nusa Penida
Ready for some good shots? Photo @kristinaegypt

1. Buoyancy is all

Well not all, but a lot. Imagine taking a picture on land while jumping up and down. It’s likely not going to turn great, right? Same goes underwater. You are faced with a new challenge, which is to stay perfectly still for a second or two while you take that shot. And of course we don’t want to damage the reef or the marine life in any way, so lying on the bottom is out of the question (I know it’s obvious, but you know, just in case…). So work on that buoyancy, a lot!

2. Get below

A common mistake of beginners is to shoot from above, as it makes easier the “not touching the reef part”. But it will make most of your photos look flat and not great. Think about being at the same level or even below your subject, which will often give you a better angle and background to work with.

3. Get closer

Another common error when you are starting underwater photography is to be too far from your subject. Start by practicing on things that are making it easy for you by not moving: corals, sea stars, etc. If the photo you intend to take is of that specific subject, then there is a fair chance that closer will be better.

4. Learn the basics of post-editing

No need to be a Photoshop wiz, but using a basic editing software to correct a few things like white balance and exposure might save some of your photos. There are plenty of free programs out there, sometimes even camera manufacturers provide one with their gear (I used a basic Nikon program for years before moving onto Lightroom). Post-editing won’t turn a crap shot into a great shot, but it might turn a pretty good shot into a good one.

5. Be patient

Some days, the fish will not be in the mood to take the pose for you. Or you will jump in and forget your camera on the boat and on that specific dive see something amazing (Murphy’s law, it is always like that). Or you will lose your SD card with what you thought might have been some great photos. It happens. Life any craft, this will take time.

And last but not least…practice makes it perfect.

To illustrate this, I went digging into my hard drive, there first two shots are from 2011 (and apparently I thought they were worth saving...). And then 2 shots from 2019. See any difference? ;-)

Sure I have also upgraded my equipment (for those interested, I shoot with a Canon G16, Fantasea housing and Fantasea DF06 Macro lens, and Inon S2000 strobe), but mainly I have spent hours and hours between then and now taking photos.

And putting the hours pays off!

Finally, if you are not sure about where to start, you can get some tips and talk about equipment during your Underwater Photo specialty course.


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