Written by Michael Zeigler | Photos by Michael Zeigler and Todd Winner
Have you ever taken a photo, reviewed it on the LCD screen, and thought to yourself, “Nailed it!”? Chances are you have, and chances are it wasn’t by accident. We’ve put together our 10 Top Tips for Amazing Underwater Photos, and we’ll share some of our favorite underwater photos as well.
TIP #1 GET CLOSE: Get close (and then get closer) is the underwater photographer’s moniker. And sometimes that means getting uncomfortably close. I am by no means endorsing getting anywhere near a dangerous critter. However, Todd Winner did, and the image below is awesome.
TIP #2 DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Whether it’s via the internet, books, or talking to fellow divers, be sure you know what you’re looking for, and where to find it. Knowing how to approach certain subjects is paramount as well. You’ve invested a lot of time and money before you even giant-stride off the boat. You may as well go the extra mile and study your subject and location.
TIP #3 BE PREPARED: You never know when a potentially great subject will present itself. When entering the water while shooting wide-angle, I always start with my camera settings set to 1/125, F8, ISO 320, strobes out to the sides at 1/2 power.
TIP #4 CONNECT WITH THE VIEWER: This is most often done by having solid eye contact with the subject. Just make sure that the eyes are in sharp focus.
TIP #5 FIND AN UNCOMMON SUBJECT: These always seem to get the attention of the viewer. Or, photograph a common subject in an uncommon way.
TIP #6 USE THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE SHOT: This ties back to #2 (do your homework), and it’s imperative that you have the right equipment to get the shot you’re after. Would a mini dome be more useful than a large dome? Would you be better off using a 105mm macro lens or a 60mm macro lens?
TIP #7 FILL THE FRAME: Successful portrait images tend to dominate a majority of the image. The subject occupies most of the frame, and may include a bit of its environment.
TIP #8 USE THE SURFACE: Reflections are a great way to enhance an underwater marine life portrait, as it not only shows the viewer exactly where the subject is in the water column, but also adds an artistic touch to the photograph.
TIP #9 GO INTO STEALTH MODE: How you approach a subject can be the difference between getting the shot and, well, … not. I’ve found that eye contact is ok, as long as it’s not both eyes staring right at the subject. Animals often interpret direct eye contact as a threat, since you’re focused solely on them. Avoiding this will allow you to get relatively close and capture that crisp, colorful photo that you prepared for.
TIP #10 USE A MODEL: Adding the “human element” can make an ordinarily “normal” subject into a visually captivating one.
Michael Zeigler is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video, as well as an AAUS Scientific Diver. More of Michael’s underwater photography can be seen at www.seainfocus.com.
Todd Winner is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video and has over 20 years of experience in underwater still and broadcast video. To see more of Todd’s work please go to www.toddwinner.com.