Part 4: A whole new world – taking photos under water
You have already taken enough photos at the beach, have taken macro shots from every potential image at your destination and your family looks another way whenever you are approaching with your camera? Maybe it is time to leave the elements you are used to behind then try something new and completely different instead. ;) This article is going to tell you important facts about „how to take photos under water“.
Photo by Ronald Eliassen Hole [via Flickr]
Of course, you can not use every camera for taking photos under water – in fact, we strongly recommend you not to do that ;-)
But it is not that expensive or complicated, either. Your camera may rather simply be turned suitable for taking photos under water:
- if you already own a compact camera: You need to buy a matching underwater housing for it. You can either buy a matching underwater housing for your camera model from the respective manufacturer or you may buy one from a third party offering housings for various models.
- if you own a reflex camera: You may buy an underwater housing for those as well but they are more expensive and bulkier than compact cameras.
- another option is to directly buy an underwater camera . But you should not buy such a camera if you want to use it ashore as well – you can only take photos under water with it. Underwater cameras have a reasonable price but can not be used for other purposes than taking photos under water. In case you want to use your camera for various purposes, an outdoor camera is the perfect solution for you, for example one from Pentax. But please note that this one belongs to a higher price category.
Photo by Steren Giannini [via Flickr]
Of course, you may spend a lot of money on a photographic equipment for taking photos under water if you want to. Specialised applications of any kind from housings for great depths to flash units with a particular stand or special cameras are available for professional photographers. However, we are concentrating on a few tips for beginners here.
If you buy a housing, it is important to make sure that it is suitable for the water depth you need it for. For beginners, a plastic housing for a depth of 10 meters should be sufficient. For snorkelling even lighter cases for a depth of up to 3 meters are available.
Compact cameras vs. reflex cameras
Even if you own a reflex camera, you should think twice about taking it with you under water and thus exposing it to “dangers”. Of course, a compact camera offers great advantages because it is easier to handle. But you may have problems with the shutter release delay (which causes a photo to be taken a few moments after you have released the shutter) – because everything is constantly moving under water. This may result in loosing a nice image. But on the other hand, a reflex camera without the live-view function does not show the current part of the picture on the display, which is a standard of compact cameras meanwhile and under water is much more practical than having to look through the viewfinder.
Photo by Jayvee Fernandez [via Flickr]
However, reflex cameras offer the option to change the lens. But this leads to another disadvantage of reflex cameras as well: before you can dive into the water, you need to decide, whether you want to take close-up or wide-angle shots. But once you have decided, you will likely get great results, which you can improve even further by taking photos in raw image format. If you want to rework your photos with a compact camera, you are slightly limited in this matter.
Another disadvantage of compact cameras is shown when it comes to focal lengths: For taking photos under water, the usage of a wide-angle lens can be recommended because the water itself works as a natural magnifier and thus everything appears to be “nearer”. Compact cameras do often have a rather powerful zoom and a high focal length but taking photos under water should better be done with a smaller focal length like 1.1″.
Ligthing conditions under water
Usually, lighting conditions under water are difficult to handle. Sun rays are mostly reflected when meeting the water surface and thus hardly reach greater depths. This makes the time around noonday the most advantageous time for diving because the sun is positioned vertically to the water surface.
When taking photos under water, we recommend you to always use a flash. Unfortunately, flash units of digital cameras are rather weak and thus are not able to illuminate a complete scene under water. However, they may be of help for objects that are less than 1 meter away. In general, it is advisable to go up to the object as near as you can without touching anything! Even the slightest touch my destroy a coral.
Photo by Shayan [via Flickr]
If you own a reflex camera and would like to use it professionally we strongly recommend you to work with an external flash.
However, this does not mean that photos taken without a flash can not have a good result as well – if you succeed in taking photos with the „available light“ setting they get especially great. Simply find out what is possible in the area you are diving in and try various camera settings.
Last but not least: General advises for good results
Photo by Samuel Chow [via Flickr]
- „Point and shoot“ – Do not wait too long for the perfect image. Roughly have a look for the scene you would like to take a photo of and release the shutter. You do not have much time to choose a particular image section – you can do that later when reworking the photo.
- Water absorbs colours. First, the shades of red disappear and leave the photos with a blue cast. In greater depths you will not have yellow and orange any more. But you may still get good results if you spend some time at reworking your photos later.
- If you would like to take photos of marine species you need to avoid moving hectically and behave calmly. Otherwise, shy fish will quickly disappear and you can only take a photo of their backsides.
- We recommend you to use the serial shot function of your camera now and then. This way, you enhance your chance of catching the perfect moment. Many compact cameras offer this mode as well!
- Finally, the most obvious advise: Charge the rechargeable batteries and the flash completely each time before you want to go diving! Under water you can not change your equipment and missing a great motive is very annoying.