When one decides to go “hunting” for subjects underwater, he must bare in mind several crucial setting of the waterproof digital camera and how to squeeze most of the moment. The laws of physics underwater differ from the ones on the ground pretty much. Therefore here I have listed several most important settings of the camera and useful hints every underwater photographer should check before he/she submerges under the water surface.
1. Underwater Mode
Every waterproof digital camera has at least one underwater mode. This is the most important setting to handle white balance (WB) correctly. As you might know, the colors of the visible spectrum are absorbed in the water differently. The red color is absorbed very quickly, it penetrates only about 0.5 m underwater. For instance, the blue goes much more deeper, several dozens of meters. That’s the reason why the sea seems blue when you are looking at great depths of near the horizon underwater.
It’s also important that you don’t forget to switch back to normal mode when you get return from water, since all the images taken on the ground using “Underwater Mode” seems reddish – again, with respect to the different physics of light under and above the water.
2. Get Close to the Subject
If you would like to take a portrait of fish or any other creature, you need to approach as close as you can. I know there are many species which are scared of human divers and you should invest more time and nerves capturing these ones, but if you do it correctly, the result will pay-off. If you’re in doubts about spending the whole dive time just for a photo of one sneaky fish, ask yourself the question: “Do I want one great shot of the rare subject of full memory card of snapshots when I return to surface?”
3. Use Flash for Macro Shots
In the most situations an additional source of light is more than welcome underwater, because of the absorption (discussed above). Therefore you should use the flash to illuminate your fish. There is a lot of plankton in the water and small dirties, so the flash should be used just for short distances – let’s say in general up to several feet (1 meter). The backscattering effect (will be discussed in details in one of the following posts) ruins your photos when trying to use the flash for longer distances and for larger sceneries.
So keep in mind, if you like colorful and contrast closeup shots, do not forget to turn on the flash.
4. Choose Easy Subjects
It’s advisable for novices to avoid difficult subjects. There are lot of chances that one gives up because of bad first photos, the result of extremely difficult subject.
5. Sensitivity (ISO) of the Sensor
The ISO sensitivity of the CCD or CMOS sensor of your camera is very much depended on the conditions underwater – which part of the day is, which diving location, how clean the water is, what you are photographing … The general rule is that when you’re using flash and in shallow water on sunshine day you should use lower ISO settings, which decreases noise. On the other hand, when imaging the wreck at 30 meters, you need to choose higher ISO settings (400 and up), otherwise you end up with blurred photos.
6. Be a Good Swimmer or Diver
Last but not the least, you need to be very well balanced and lithe in the water. You should have no troubles with buoyancy. Handling digital camera underwater is way much more difficult than on the ground and without skills you collect during many dives you unfortunately will not be able to take a single shot.
I hope you found this article informative and wish you happy clicking underwater!