Pros and Cons of Shutter Priority Mode in Underwater Photography

Shutter priority is a semi automatic feature incorporated into most digital cameras. It is often represented by the symbols 'TV' or 'S'. Shutter priority mode allows the photographer to select his shutter speed while the camera automatically selects the aperture that will produce the best exposure. When getting extremely close to marine life that could move at any moment, it is important to have a fast shutter speed so that your image is not blurred. This is especially true in underwater photography because the camera is being handheld and is rarely perfectly still.


Because both the camera and subject are never really still in underwater photography, it is important that the shutter speed is very fast. In fact, your camera is moving around a lot underwater and a slow shutter speed is guaranteed to ruin your shots by turning them into big blurs. If you're shooting a subject that is moving very fast, then you can set the shutter to 1/2000th of a second. Or, if you want a little blur, you can set the shutter priority to 1/200th of a second. The choice is yours. 


Because you're controlling only the shutter speed, the camera is controlling the aperture. This has a huge effect on your depth of field, which is extremely crucial and important in underwater photography. Light behaves differently underwater than it does on land. Water absorbs most of the lightwaves, leaving light that is blueish in color. This light causes objects to appear colorless and indistinct at short distances in the water column. This effect works both vertically and horizontally. 

Because visibility is so limited underwater, you're left with a small area for depth of field. Depth of field is important to an image's quality because it gives layer and depth to two dimensional images. By switching the camera into shutter priority mode, you're giving up control of your aperture which in turns gives up your control over the depth of field.

However, another important influence of depth of field is your lens selection. Because the photographer needs to get very close to the subject in underwater photography, a wide angle and macro lenses are commonly used. These lenses tend to produce a shallow depth of field.


Shutter priority mode is helpful for underwater photography because it limits the blurring that occurs from the camera and subject moving underwater. Although it does affect the aperture and depth of field, the pros outweigh the cons.

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