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The first rule of underwater photography is safety you’re dealing with an entirely different set of issues as soon as you step off dry land and you need to be aware of how to keep yourself and the wildlife around you safe. Your diving skills are more important to learn than photography skills, at least in the beginning.
All of the photographers we interviewed agreed that you don’t need the most expensive gear to start with. A simple compact camera with manual settings in waterproof housing will be enough for your first foray into underwater photography. If you already have a camera, using something you’re familiar with can make all the difference.
Lens wise, it’s important to know what you want to shoot. You’ll need a wide angle lens for larger subjects and a macro lens for the small stuff as distortion in the water means that the closer you are to your subject, the clearer the shot. Waterproof housing means you’ll be unable to switch out lenses, so know you’re photographing and what shot you want before you get in the water.
The settings that work for you underwater is a personal preference. Some photographers prefer to set their aperture first, and others shutter speed. Aperture priority mode is not your friend if you’re shooting a fast moving subject. In terms of color settings, many underwater photographers will use Auto White Balance settings and correct their RAW files later.
Water acts as a massive filter that eats up the entire spectrum of reds. The deeper you go, the more blue your shots will be. To maintain the correct color tones of your subject, you’ll either need to be close to the surface or use external lighting .Many underwater photographers lean heavily on strobe or flash lighting, which helps to bring the color back into the photograph.
Check in with local underwater photographers and divers if you’re in a new location to find out about the safest places to dive. Remember, reading about a location and diving there are two different things talking to someone with experience is always best.
When checking on the time, not only will you need to consider your oxygen levels and dive capabilities but that every element of photography takes longer. Framing, adjusting your settings and dealing with wildlife will always eat up more time than you’d anticipate.
If you’re going to be photographing animals in any setting you need to do your homework. Know what kinds of creatures are lurking beneath the surface, how they behave, and how much of a risk they pose to your safety. Each animal will behave differently, some are timid and will shy away from you, others you’ll be able to get close to without difficulty.
As important as your shoot may be, being comfortable will make your job much easier. Staying warm in the water can be a challenge, for example, and shooting while your teeth chatter isn’t fun. Your best bet for staying comfortable is to invest in an entire scuba kit. If that’s out of your budget, you can rent a wetsuit to stay warm, as well as some fins to increase your mobility, making it easier to grab the shot you need.
Depending on the type of creature, there will already be thousands of images of them. Try to capture a feature of the animal that hasn’t been seen before. To do this you’ll need to research the animal.