5 Tips from Pros to Improve Your Underwater Photography

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GREAT Underwater Photographs Takes More than a Phone–Smart or Otherwise!

The Best in the Biz Share Some of Their Secrets to Capturing that Underwater Magic

Underwater photographer Brian Skerry shark

Some of the world’s best marine and underwater photographers share their tips so we can all improve our photography skills.

Brian Skerry

We’ve feature work by Skerry in the past. As a photographer for National Geographic for 18 years he has seen just about every aquatic condition one could imagine. He’s spent time on top of the water as well as beneath the surface, and even diving under polar ice.

During his career he has seen a dramatic change in the world’s oceans. Fortunately he has also found that there are pockets that seem to be healthy. Preserving those places must be a priority in his mind.
His number one tip for getting the best shots?
1. Patience.
The best images of wildlife rarely happen quickly or soon after you arrive in a location.
Watching and learning animal behavior and waiting for nice light is key.
What is your tip for camera gear:

2. If you can afford it, get gear that will allow you to grow.

If a beginner photographer can afford to put a DSLR inside an underwater housing, this is what I would recommend.
This type of system will allow for tremendous flexibility and creativity and allow the photographer to grow.

Parting thoughts from Brian–

I’ve had a handful of dicey situations and countless magical experiences.

The beautiful moments are what I most remember.

Adriana Basques

Adriana Basques whale shark

Adriana Basques was a business executive. Then in 1996 she took up SCUBA diving and deep-sixed her briefcase and became an underwater photographer.
Now best known for her split images, where half of the shot is above the water and the other half is below.
Her work also appears frequently in National Geographic, and other top nature magazines such as National Wildlife Federation. Her photographs have even found their way onto movie brochures and swimwear.
Her #1 tip for getting that great shot:
3. Be an excellent diver

To achieve her split images:

I use a super-wide-angle lens (8-15 mm) in a full-frame camera with a large glass dome port.
Lights are also key and for this setting I use two strobes with specially designed dome diffusers.
For coral reefs, I add two more strobes for a total of four.

Her #2 tip:

4. Don’t be afraid to break the rules
You have to know the behavior of your subject, but be willing to try something new. When you understand the animal’s behavior you can anticipate what will happen and position yourself appropriate.
She comments on the photo above:

I anticipated the animal feeding on the surface and positioned myself in front of the mouth having the fishing platform behind me.

Everything happened so fast and I only took a single shot.
At first I thought I did not get the image correct because the shark was touching my dome port.
Even with a super-wide lens it was too close to get the entire mouth.
Breaking the rules can often lead to a more appealing image as turned out to be the case.

David Fleetham

underwater photographer David Fleetham octopus

Since getting a cover shot on Life magazine in 1991, David Fleetham has had more than 200 magazine covers. His work is also shown in galleries around the world.

Fleetham’s #1 tip on getting great photographs?

5. Picture the image you want, and then get it

Check everything on the display on the back of your camera to be sure and then continue with the same subject, changing angles, backgrounds, anything that you can think of.
Use that unlimited number of exposures and then try what you don’t think will work, or what someone told you would not work.
You might surprise yourself and the rest of us.

OK, now you have their tips. Put them to work–we’re ready to be surprised and amazed!

Read the original article by Fred Garth for CNN

Photo credits (top to bottom)–and please see more of these fantastic underwater photographers’ work by clicking on the links that follow

Spotted Dolphins in the Bahamas, by Brian Skerry

Whale Shark, by Adriana Basques

Octopus, by David Fleetham




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