So was I when I first got started. It all began with one Nikonis II 35MM camera. I didn’t even have a light meter. Everything was guessing. Then I would compare my pictures to others and they weren’t all blue and dark. They had vivid color, they were perfectly lit. Then I began asking questions. I now possess 5 cameras, a large assortment of lenses, and 3 strobes. I did not have the advantages of the internet and social media to help me get started. Well, trust me, I hold no grudges. In fact, I am here to help you.
If You Snorkel
If you are a snorkeler, you can start out with a modest budget and go the inexpensive route. If you dive down to a maximum depth of 15′, then you don’t need a camera that goes beyond that. The more you can spend, the better the camera. You will want one with a built-in flash. You see, water filters out the color red in light very quickly and it gets worse the deeper you go. You want to fire your flash for what I will refer to as “flash fill”. At snorkel depths, there is a lot of ambient light, but the flash will enhance the warm colors giving you more colorful pictures. Now some cameras may come with a red correction filter. I am not to crazy about those as much as what a flash can provide. When making your purchase, be sure to read the reviews of others that have purchased the camera. They can be very informative.
If you are planning on eventually becoming a scuba diver, it might be wise to go the more expensive route. A nicer camera with a depth rating of at least 150′. A strobe light to provide a more intense light source for vivid color at all depths. In the modern day world of digital photography, it has become a point-and-shoot world. And yet I still read and witness divers having issues. Shooting underwater is very tricky. Water, especially sea water, diffuses light. You need to be close to your subject. If you can manage pictures 3′ or closer, you will have very good results. Again, fire the strobe to enhance those magnificent colors the ocean provides.
Get Started Tips
How do you get within 3′ of your subject? Ah! Now comes the appreciation for good underwater shots. It is not that easy, so don’t get frustrated. Patience pays off. When shooting with scuba, you will want to float in one spot and after a while, the sea life becomes curious or comfortable with your presence there and they start to approach you. Check out the blogs on “composition” and “buoyancy”. They can be very helpful in you snapping some nice images. As I mention in a blog, don’t shoot down at your subject. The better images are being level or slightly below your subject. If you start to chase them, you will have a lot of pictures of fish swimming away from the camera. The better shots are side views or the fish facing the camera.
When To Listen
Everyone is a critic. Opinions are like noses, everyone has one. I go on several posts and forums and see some of the comments. There was an image of a clownfish, barely visible due to the tentacles of the anemone concealing 90% of the fish, and the shot was taken from above the anemone. Yet, there was a comment, “nice composition” from one observer. That person must not have had a complete knowledge of what composition entailed. If he said it to make the photographer feel good, he wasn’t doing the shooter any justice. You should want honest critiques of your pictures from someone knowledgeable. Discuss the images and listen to advice. You are to far away. Your shot is to dark. Discuss ways to correct your mistakes. If your picture needs improvement and you are looking for a pat on the back, you are not doing yourself any favors. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
No one, and I mean NO ONE starts out taking perfect pictures. Once you realize how difficult underwater photography is, the better off you are as you open up your mind to the learning process. Sometimes it’s a good idea to buddy up with another photograph and study their techniques. I will say this, you will learn an awful lot about the ocean as you become a better photographer. It’s not all about going down and looking for the big stuff. The macro world opens up a new universe that is often overlooked. There’s nothing like shooting a little critter that is only the size of dime and looking at it enlarged on a full screen. Some of these small guys have much more unique patterns and colors than the big stuff.
Go get that camera and best of luck. Good shooting!