Using an Underwater Camera
With the advent of digital camera’s and more recently smart-phones that take exceptional pictures, underwater photography is available to every diver.
Many years ago when divers would show-off their underwater photo’s, they were typically poor because of the manual settings necessary to compensate for the white balance, contrast, lighting and focus. SO any good picture was generally a lucky shot or taken by an experienced underwater photographer with very expensive equipment. Today it is almost difficult for a novice to take a poor shot with a modern camera of some sort. There are even $40 waterproof housings you could use with your smart-phone that do a fantastic job, particularly in comparison to the days of disposable film camera’s.
Before you decide to take your camera in the water to snap some shots or video, keep these rules in mind.
- Be comfortable as a diver before introducing a new aspect to your dive. Rule of thumb is to have at least 15-20 dives under your belt with relatively consistent scuba gear that you use (as to not have to re-learn differing equipment every dive) and taking a class (if available) will help you know how to maximize your efforts to get the best end result.
- With the electronics associated with the modern digital camera, a diver has to do very little to set-up the camera to take the best image possible, with the exception of white-balance (or perhaps underwater settings available on specific underwater cameras). The best basic setting for camera’s in the water is to set the white balance on cloudy conditions, this helps to brighten and to keep the reds (that get washed out the deeper a diver goes) in the image to give more vibrant realistic color. Some would argue that the bluer the image the more realistic to what it looks like to the diver (at depth), while others would like the true color of the marine life or object as if it was pulled out of the water. This is up to you. But the point is, the diver has to do very little to set-up the camera before diving. Let the technology make the adjustments for you, then….
- Let your computer do the work. After uploading all of the photos keep this in mind:
- With the availability of memory sticks with up to 64 mb of space, you can take a lot of pictures, probably more than you physically have time for as a diver. SO take a lot of pictures, perhaps 3-4 of a single image. After the dive when reviewing, keep the very best – throw out the rest (literally trash them without a second thought) otherwise you will have a file full of mediocre pictures. Occasionally you may find a gem in one of these mediocre pictures that you can crop out and edit, but don’t try to make a good picture out of an overall BAD picture.
- You can edit your photo’s with very basic software that (in many cases) comes standard with your computer. straightening out the horizon, cropping and color adjust can make a decent image look good. You computer can do amazing color corrections with the right subtle adjustments, in many cases just adding a red hue will pull out the lost reds in your image.
- Holding the camera still throughout the video shoot. Keep in mind the end viewer gets really turned off by jerky motions, zooming in-out-in-out and panning (which is side-to-side) too often. Aim you camera on a subject and keep it there, while slowly following the subject matter keeping it in the center of the view field. If a better subject comes up, stop video then restart on the new subject keeping the viewfinder on target the whole time.
- When getting a good video of the subject, many of the camera’s will have a built in wide-angle lens than can include a wider field of view to get the whole image or subject matter. This can make it difficult to get a good close-up or see detail in some of the smaller things, so a good tip is to get as physically close to the subject as not to touch-it and to be safe. Some of my best video was holding the camera only a few inches away from the subject and keeping it in the viewfinder for at least a good 5 seconds (or more depending).
We recommend an underwater photography class to learn more tips and to practice.