For the average underwater photographer, it’s not always possible to travel the globe looking for that ‘money shot’ taken in an exotic location together with an armful of fancy camera equipment.
For novice and recreational underwater photographers, it’s likely that you’ll practice your photography skills in an area that’s closer to home. For this reason, it might be the case that you quickly become familiar with the regular sights in your home diving spot and are constantly shooting the same subjects time and time again. Shooting the same fish in the same underwater scene will soon become quite old – not just for you, but for those you choose to share your photographs with as well. Once this repetitive underwater shooting and sharing starts, even the politest of guests or family members are unfortunately quite likely to start yawning during your underwater photo presentations.
Table of Content
Unstick Your Creativity
Feeling ‘stuck’ with your camera in-hand is not a nice feeling. Allowing your gear to dominate or limit your creativity is an unfortunate space to be in. After all, even with all the technological gadgets and expensive camera gear in the world, you’ll always get pretty average results if you don’t add your own creative stamp to the picture. There’s so much more to underwater photography than just being satisfied with simply achieving the correct exposure or an in-focus shot.
Once you’ve mastered these skills and are able to accurately reflect the beauty in front of you, it might be time to take it up a notch by adding your own creativity to your photos. Continuously challenging your underwater photography abilities helps to keep your interest levels high and – who knows – maybe one day your passion could become your way to make a living? Being able to separate your photographs from the masses involves thinking just a little bit creatively, trying to see the same scene from a different angle and to feel the shot with your soul.
By all means, continue to document the marine life as you see it if this is what pleases you – science relies heavily on well-documented photographs that clearly depict the marine species they are studying and this can aid your own education too. But if you’re looking to spice up your underwater pictures with a bit of creative flair, consider the following tips on how to make an average photo far from average.
Embrace the Blur
If you’re a fan of macro photography – and many of the best underwater photographers are – making use of maximum field depths is standard practice. To get something new out of your photographs, why not try the opposite. Making use of a f/3.5 or an f/2.8 rather than the usual f/16 or f/11 will help to add a pleasant bokeh effect that really isolates the main photo subject. The background appears as a smooth blur with your stunning subject in clear, sharp focus right at the forefront of your picture.
Try a Different Angle
Even the most common of subjects can look fantastic if taken from the right angle. Common angles include the eye-to-eye and upward shots, but thinking outside of the box can really come in handy when it comes to angles. Sometimes some of the best shots are shot “out of the hip” with no consideration for the viewfinder. This technique is often seen in street photography but works very well when under the water too.
Shed Some Light on the Subject
Correct lighting can make all the difference, taking a photograph from average to magnificent with the simple flick of a switch or flash of a strobe. Changing the position of your strobe can also have an impact on your subject’s appearance so don’t be afraid to move outside of your standard setup in this regard. In shallow waters, making use of the natural light as opposed to artificial lighting can add a beautiful, natural feel to the photograph. Even the simplest and most common of subjects can be enhanced by this natural light.
A keen photographer will always be aware of the way the light streams through the water – sometimes beautiful patterns of light can be seen on the reef and make for a scenic photograph or an interesting background. Being aware of how the light creates shadows underwater can add elements of depth to your photographs that you may not get from any old angle, so be sure that you play around with your positioning too. For the fun of it, why not try shooting the same section of reef from as many different angles as you can and notice how the light changes the scene each and every time.
If you’re looking to spice up an uninteresting photo, try the spin technique. With your camera’s focus point set to the centre and your ISO correctly adapted to the available light, spin your camera around quickly whilst maintaining its centre axis in the middle of the lens. Taking the shot as you spin the camera creates a fantastic swirl effect especially stunning on colourful corals. This effect also works well at wreck sites, especially on the props or even just in blue water.
We’d love to hear your favourite tips for how you change it up and keep it fresh in your underwater photography endeavours.