Anatomy of Underwater Photography

Jellyfish macro small

Talking about something new that could stir up your interest… Underwater Photography!

It is definitely something one may think as interesting and worth trying. However, unlike photography alone, underwater photography requires different kinds of settings which are very important to capture the best moments underneath.

Knowing your camera is not difficult at all. But somehow, the number of the choice buttons seem to overwhelm our senses, especially during the beginner stage. It does require mastery or at least be familiar with the systems. But, apart from all these options, fundamental (yes, theoretical too!) knowledge and constant practice is a must in order to capture all that piques your interest down the deep blue seas.

Blast of Foundational Knowledge: The Light

Just like any other field of work, it is always the foundation that is most important. The deeper and wider the foundation, the more breadth, and width it eventually evolves into, even in matters like creativity where one is tempted to think of it as always innate.

Defining photography is the first key understand what it is all about.

Photography is the art and science of generating durable images through the light. Thus the foundation of photography lies and revolves around light and the ability to manipulate and control such factor in photography is very important.

Just like a canvass, the image that you take is like a painted canvass wherein the brushes are the shutter speed and aperture while the light is the paint. Using the camera tools is like using the brushes where you have lots of options to choose from and different strokes that will create a masterpiece.

Cameras are designed to capture images and produce the best results by manipulating light with tools such as the flash and filters. But apart from this, each function has a different effect depending on the model of the camera.

Here are some quick tips:

Knowing the difference between an SLR and a compact camera is very important.

Check this out! SLR Cameras have a mechanical shutter while a compact camera has an electronic shutter speed that allows shutter movement faster than the SLR.

The SLR has a measuring aperture of 1/3rd –stop increments which means that on every one full stop, it is equivalent to three steps up or down. The Compact camera, on the other hand, also has 1/3rd –stop increments – but each step is a full stop of light that generates a more dramatic effect. This also means a full stop or doubling of the shutter. The effect of strobes in the light is increased for up to 1/3 in the shutter and a little bit of this will help young photographers to avoid overexposure and the likes.

Controlling Light Underwater

Controlling light

To control the light underwater, there are three light functions that need to be understood.

F-stops are used to measure aperture and designed to create the image some sense of depth and contrast commonly called “depth of field”. This is affected by the distance and opening of the aperture. This then creates confusion because it becomes counter-intuitive of what we normally learned. To get better light and less depth of field, a f/2.8 setting for the aperture wide open to collect a lot of light. Stopping down the aperture then increases the f-stop number, and get the aperture smaller creating great depth and less light.

Shutter speed is measured in time divisions of a second’s effects in ambient light. However, shutter speed greater than 125 tend to black out the light but some prefer to shoot at Php125.00. shutter speeds vary but some underwater photographers use 1/200 shutter speed.

Moreover, ISO is like an amplifier which amplifies all incoming lights used to shoot scenes with high f-stops and shutter speeds. Keep in mind that turning aperture smaller will increase the number of f-stops that depth of field at light cost. One can still generate an image with vibrant color if ISO is increased a few steps with a higher f-stop.

Shooting on the wide-angle scene is highly played by ISO and shutter speed where the ambient light is allowed to help expose and balance the light especially when shooting on a coral reef or open space underwater. However, taking macro pictures, these functions are used less.

ISO and shutter speed come into play greatly when we shoot wide-angle images by allowing the ambient light to help expose and balance the light when shooting a reef scene or another large landscape. We use these functions far less when it comes to shooting macro.

Shooting on Macro
Underwater photography

As mentioned earlier, shooting macro is different than shooting on a wide angle because it talks about inches. The distance of a shooter to the subject of the photo is very important. The nearness will decrease the haze, increase contrast, and more vibrant RAW Image colors.Usually, the shutter speed is set to 1/200 and f-stop is adjusted to fit your subject.

It is very important to at least have the fundamentals of photography and familiarize ourselves with the function buttons. The amount of light underwater is very much different from the outside world and thus settings are very much different in every situation. The ability to control the light underwater will surely bring an output that captures the real colors underwater and ultimately a masterpiece of photography.