Get the Shot! Underwater macro abstracts

By: Todd Winner

Parrotfish Scales

Parrot fish detail, 1/125 sec, f/22, ISO 100

Underwater abstracts or detail shots are a fun style to add to your portfolio. Not only can these type of images be stunning but they are a great go to shot when visibility is less than ideal. Underwater abstracts look great printed, especially large canvas or metal prints. They are a nice alternative to the typical underwater print.


Trigger fish fin, 1/160 sec, f/13, ISO 100

Key settings

  • Macro lens
  • Manual camera exposure.
  • Fast shutter speed that will sync with your strobes (1/125 -1/250)
  • Aperture based on the look you want to achieve (f/5.6 – f/18)
  • Low ISO (100-200)
  • Manual or TTL strobes
  • Subject with interesting patterns, textures, or colors.


Christmas tree worm detail, 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 160

Getting the Shot

I usually use a straight macro lens for these shots, but you can also get some interesting abstracts by adding a diopter like the Subsee +5 or Nauticam SMC. Look for interesting textures and patterns like fish scales or sea stars. Parrot fish and Scorpion fish are two of my favorite abstract subjects. Fill the frame with your subject and look for leading lines in the pattern to compose your shot. Depending on the subject you may want to try opening up your f/stop for a shallow depth of field look. Shadows can help show the texture so experiment with different strobe angles or try turning one strobe off.


Scorpion fish fin, 1/160 sec, f/14, ISO 100

Todd WinnerTodd Winner is a Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video ambassador. He has over 20 years of experience in underwater still and broadcast video. To see more of Todd’s work please go to For the latest information on workshops and trips, sign up for our newsletter or go to Immersed Imaging and check out the expeditions and local trips!

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