Better underwater photography…
At Manta Manta Diving in Bali, we are often asked how to take better photos. Below are some suggestions to improve your underwater photography and your time at the great Bali dive sites. We have some amazing locations for you to use as your underwater photography subject, such as the USAT Liberty shipwreck in Tulamben or diving with the manta rays and mola mola at Nusa Penida. Just don’t forget to look up every now and again to enjoy the diving experience of the WW2 shipwreck or being circled by manta rays!
Below are 10 ideas to help improve you underwater photos with Manta Manta Dive in Bali.
1. Improve your dive skills first.
It’s not advisable to take a camera on your first dives, your buoyancy control may not be as good as it should be and you may end up damaging your expensive equipment, marine life or even yourself. Underwater photography is great fun and add a new element to diving, but on your first few dives, as well as developing your skills, you should also focus on what is swimming by and not on a camera LCD screen!
Try not to be one of those divers who kicks up sand as the swim away from their photo subject, ruining the underwater photography opportunity for the next diver and potentially damaging marine life.
2. Get closer to the subject.
If you think you’re close enough to the subject of your photo, think again! Halve the distance between you and the subject and you’ll get a better result. The closer you are the less particles (also know as back scatter) there are in the water. So the closer you are the clearer the photo will be and also more detailed.
How you frame the subject is key to underwater photography. Imagine 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines cutting through your screen at equal distances. Then try to put the subject of your photo on these lines. This is called the rule of thirds. Putting the subject in the middle of the photo doesn’t give it the interest it deserves. Put it a third of the way into the photo and it makes it the focus point and makes it pop out.
You can also use diagonal lines from the corners to draw the focus into the subject.
4. Shoot upwards.
Try to get nice and low to your subject so you can shoot upwards slightly. Try to get a bit of sky or the surface of the water in your photo. If you’re lucky you may even get a really nice reflection doing this.
5. Add a strobe or video light.
By using external lighting (not the camera’s built in flash), you can light up a subject and bring lots of colour back to life. Strobes give lots of power but can be difficult to master, so you may want to consider 1 or 2 video lights. This will also bring back lots of colour, be easier to use but not as effective of greater distances.
6. Put your camera into Manual Mode.
Shooting in manual mode give you a lot greater control of all the settings. Allowing you to capture the image just as you want it and just as you need to according to the conditions for the day. No more blurred photos because your shutter speed was too slow. Adjust the aperture to change the depth of field and make the viewer immediately drawn to the subject and not distracted by the surroundings. It’s always a good idea to practice this on land before jumping in the water.
7. Put your camera into RAW mode.
If your camera has the capability, shoot in RAW mode. The fil size will be a lot larger and this is because the photo captures a lot more information. Then when it’s time to edit the photo, you have a lot more control and can make an average photo amazing with post processing. Shooting in jpeg mode does not give you the same level of control of editing. So you may have a really well composted photo but the lighting isn’t quite right, with a jpeg there is little way to improve it, but with RAW you can make massive changes to make the perfect picture.
8. Photoshop is your friend!
And it’s not cheating, everyone does it! If you were to far from the subject, crop and zoom in, if there’s lots of back scatter in the water, delete it, if the colours aren’t right, change them. What you can do with photoshop is amazing. It can be complicated but there are plenty of step by step youtube tutorials out there to learn from. Give it a try, it’s great fun and the results can be mind blowing. Photoshop also gives you the opportunity to copyright your photos before you publish them, like the one above taken of a photographer and manta ray at Nusa Penida, Bali.
9. Be patient, be snap happy and be considerate to marine life.
If someone is in the way of your photo, just wait for them to move, then take your time, compose your picture. Once take, review the photo and if needed take more pictures, film costs money but memory cards are cheap and allow countless photos! Just be considerate to other divers who may also want to take a picture. You can always let them take a few photos then take a few more again afterwards.
The slower you move towards the subject, the less likely it is to swim away from you. So go slow. Try not to blind marine life with super strong strobes or video lights on a night dive (or day dive) and do not reposition anything or harm anything to take your perfect photo. Other divers may and should discourage you from bad underwater behaviour.
10. Practice, practice, practice.
The more time you spend underwater taking photos, the better they will get. Don’t expect to get great results straight away, it take time. Just keep at it, be patient and review your results and thing how you could have improved the picture. Slowing down and thinking underwater gives great results. Simple things like adding something into the foreground or using a dive buddy as an underwater model, these simple thing add interest and great results.
So if you need to book more dives to perfect this photography skills, why not check out our great prices at Manta Manta Diving and our world class dive sites in Bali. And if you want to learn more about photography or anything else related to scuba diving, please get in touch with Manta Manta Dive in Bali. [email protected] You can also learn more about this skill by doing our PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course and choosing the Underwater Photography dive or just come along for some fun dives and rent a camera from us (or bring you own) and we can explain all of this in our dive briefings if requested.