It’s summer and you’re probably in or near the water.
If you have a waterproof camera: maybe your phone, an all weather point and shoot, or an underwater housing for your camera; getting good underwater portraits can be tricky.
In this article, I am going to share my top three tips to capture better underwater photos.
Underwater Photography Tip 1 – Pay Attention to the Direction of Light
It may sound obvious, but the direction of light is just as important underwater as it is on dry land. The difference is that it can be very tricky to actually see light underwater, and also much more difficult to reliably position your models.
Because of the way that light is rapidly dispersed underwater, there is also a drastic difference between highlights and shadows – meaning that you will often find highlights overexposed and shadows underexposed.
I usually assess the direction of light from the surface, then direct my models to swim or pose in a direction that will work best with the style of image that I’m trying to capture.
I find that it usually works best to have your model approximately perpendicular to the direction of the light. Shooting directly into the light can be very dramatic, but you risk loosing detail in the shadows. Shooting away from the light is my least preferred approach because you usually end up with a boring looking evenly lit subject.
Underwater Photography Tip 2 – Shoot at Mid-Day
Mid-day is usually when most photographers put away the camera and go get a drink. Harsh, mid-day sunshine usually looks terrible on land, but underwater mid-day is a great time to shoot.
Quantity of light is often a problem underwater, especially if you are deeper than a few feet from the surface. Bright sunshine allows for faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures. Fast shutter speeds are important if you’re photographing a swimmer or someone moving quickly. A small aperture helps add a little buffer for focusing which can be unreliable underwater.
Also, due to the angle of refraction between light traveling from air to water, a little chop on the surface is usually enough to drastically soften sunlight underwater, even at mid-day.
Underwater Photography Tip 3 – Spend Time Editing
It is very difficult to get a great underwater photo right out of your camera. No matter what you do some heavy post-processing is almost always required.
The most important adjustments to make for underwater photography are fixing the white balance and balancing skin tones – it usually takes some experimentation, but you can get great results by just using Lightroom.
My favorite techniques for this are to use the white balance eye dropper tool in the Basic panel to choose a color that should be close to neutral gray, then adjusting the hue and saturation of each individual color with in the HSL panel.
Then it is just a matter of tweaking the contrast and dynamic range. I usually start with the Dehaze slider, then drop the highlights, increase the shadows and make sure the blacks are black.
What’s Your Favorite Tip for Underwater Photos?
Do you have a great tip for underwater photography – leave a comment below and share it with the community!