Techniques for Creating Photo Contrast for Underwater Photography

Underwater photography has the power to easily take an audience's breath away. But these great shots do not come easily. In fact, underwater photography is considered to be one of the most challenging specialization's in photography that requires specific equipment and techniques. But the rewards in meeting these challenges are extraordinary shots of few images that the human eye rarely gets the chance to see. The two biggest obstacles a photographer faces underwater are loss of photo contrast and color.

In underwater photography the main light source is the sun. Sunlight is made up of many different colors and as this light enters the surface of the water, the longer wave lengths (orange and red) are quickly absorbed by the water resulting in everything looking blue and green to the naked eye. This loss increases throughout the entire water column, both vertically and horizontally. An object 100 feet from you will look colorless and indistinctive even if both of you are six feet underwater.

But, despite these challenges, photographers have been able to capture high contrast images that are rich in color by combining two techniques. Because so much light is lost over short distances photographers use wide angle and macro lenses to get up close to their subjects. Being close to the subject is the only way to produce rich underwater images that have contrast. In fact, serious underwater photographer consider any distance that is more than three feet from the subject to be unacceptable.

The other technique for underwater photography is to use the flash. The flash is only effective at a short distance which makes it perfect for use underwater where the camera is placed close to the subject. A lot of the sunlight's colors are lost because of the water. We use the flash to restore the lost colors so that we're left with rich looking images. 

Because underwater shooting requires the photographer to get close to his subjects it is important that this person is a skilled scuba diver. You must be calm and graceful in your movements so that the marine life is not disturbed by your presence. After all, you can't get close to your subjects if they're going to swim away from you in fear. It's also important that you're a skilled diver for safety reasons. Working underwater is a safety hazard as it presents the possibility of drowning. Without warning a diver can encounter heavy currents and poor visibility. It is important to be prepared and trained for these situations because your life is at risk.

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