For a large number of divers the next step in the fantastic sport of SCUBA is delving into the world of underwater photography. Whilst photography above land poses unique challenges, everyone has a semi professional friend they can turn to for advice and tips. Under the ocean however the challenges change dramatically, tripods no longer allow for slow shutter speeds and colours of light fade with distance. Particles often fill the lense and aperture changes turn day to night.
You may be happy with the images you snap and look upon glossy magazine or instagram images and think oh it’s because they are professional with a huge setup that bamboozles you. This however is not true! A great underwater photo that makes it big online or in print can be taken with most cameras inside a housing these days. Fair enough composing a shot with a huge school of fish that is lit by expensive powerful strobes may be difficult but these are not necessary to create a beautiful poster worthy shot.
A simple compact in a well maintained housing that allows for shooting in full manual is all you need, combine that with a single strobe (strobe technology has come extremely far recently) and some good use of natural light and you may very well be submitting your photos to the printer to decorate your house or inspire others with an absorbing instagram account.
If you are looking for a camera to purchase there are a few main things to think about. Firstly the ability to use the full manual function is essential. This means that the camera will let you set the aperture, ISO and shutter speed manually, above water this may not be used at all by many amateurs as the technology of the automatic shoot function is so advanced. Camera manufacturers however spend little to no time worrying about its use underwater, thus the ability to set your own settings is essential. Second think about the housings available, generally speaking the more common camera brands such as, Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Sony have a few different housing options. Size and build quality are good factors to consider along with the ability to attach external strobes for lighting, housings that rely on you using the inbuilt flash for light will prove limited in their use due to backscatter effects.
Strobes will give you many options including night or low light diving conditions. Most strobes from reputable companies are often built to a good standard. A few things to think about when considering strobes is if the batteries are AA or rechargeable, the AA option currently has huge advantages over the traditional rechargeable systems. Not only can you pick up spares if you forgot to charge them but you can easily obtain multiple sets and affordable chargers so that whilst staying on that tropical island with no power you won’t be without your artificial light source.
So remember that a common gripe is that you take bad or average photos because of your non expensive setup, this however is not always true. As the saying goes “it’s a poor photographer who blames their camera”.