5 Tips for New Underwater Photographers
Choose your camera, don’t let the camera company choose you.
Camera companies are marketing experts. Don’t let the advertisements sell you on a camera that may not necessarily be right for you. When choosing your underwater setup, you should focus on the personal goals you have as a photographer. Sure the 65 megapixel compact camera sounds awesome, and its 30x zoom is spectacular when filming air shows, but do you need it? The average amateur photographer usually never prints larger than an 8”x10” and many photos today never leave the digital world. Megapixels become more important when producing large prints, but if your goal doesn’t involve having your images plastered to a highway billboard, focus on sensor size and ease of use for start. The size of the sensor on a digital camera DOES make a difference. It will also reflect a significant price difference, so it may be beneficial to set a goal for your photography before choosing your camera. If you are just looking to capture the underwater world at the touch of a button to share with friends, there are plenty of inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras that will accomplish this. People that are a bit more camera savvy will likely opt for manual controls.
Most digital cameras that shoot mainly on AUTO settings are becoming very efficient, however, manual settings are a huge advantage for any photographer. One of the biggest challenges shooting underwater is the availability of light. Automatic cameras tend to slow down their shutter speeds in an attempt to capture more light, which usually results in blurry photos. If the shutter speed isn’t reduced, then the ISO is generally cranked higher, resulting in grainy photos. With manual controls, you are the brains behind the camera and can fully exploit all functionality.
Produce photos that are pleasing to you (then others)
If I had to choose one way to undeniably bore even the most attentive viewing audience to death, it would be showing too many underwater photos. The underwater world is stunning when viewed with the naked eye and people love to share their experience under the waves with everyone around them... Sometimes we tend to over-do-it as photographers and shoot thousands of pictures, which is great! However, viewing thousands of pictures back to back is not pleasing for most people (your mom may argue this). Shoot photos that you enjoy, and always strive to make the next one even better. It is an endless quest that will keep you occupied for a lifetime. Don’t give up on yourself if people aren’t impressed with every photo you show them. These are your memories at the end of the day, so keep focused on the photos you love, and think about why you love them.
Ask for advice
Naturally, all of us strive to be the experts in our field, but chances are, there is someone out there who can help us shoot better. Whether its overall creativity, composition, camera control, or post processing, you can bet that someone out there can give you a helpful tip or two. Look into photography workshops, classes, certifications, or seminars that will help you all around as a photographer. The PADI Underwater Photographer course is a natural choice for most people as it focuses directly on shooting underwater, but there are plenty of options out there to help your growth as a photographer. You may be surprised in the end at how much you didn’t know.
Photographers worldwide are known for being the worst dive buddies ever (generally). What you thought was your dive buddy at the surface will actually be the first person to leave you diving solo when he sees an inch long worm that you could care less about. For inexperienced divers, buoyancy can be a struggle when a camera is introduced, and it can be a big distraction from important safety concerns. Make sure that you are completely comfortable diving without a camera before putting an extra piece of equipment in your hands. At the end of the day, good buoyancy and comfort in the water will ultimately lead to better shots.