Three Photo Lighting Tips to Improve Your Underwater Photography Skills

Light behaves differently underwater than it does on dry land. Because of this, there is a special strategy for underwater shooting that compensates for the unique photo lighting situation we are faced with.

The largest obstacle that an underwater photographer has to contend with, besides being a trained scuba diver, is the significant loss of color and contrast. Sunlight is composed of a few different colors and the longer wavelength colors (orange and red) are quickly absorbed by the water, leaving the rest of the light looking blue. The loss of color increases with distance in the water column, regardless if it is vertical or horizontal. An object will appear colorless and indistinct if it is 100 feet away from you, even if both of you are only 6 feet under water. This effect occurs in even the clearest of waters. It's up to you as the photographer to overcome this and here are three tips to help improve your underwater photography skills.

1. Shoot Close to the Subject

While this is not really a lighting tip it does have a lot of influence on your images. Light underwater tends to fall off pretty quickly so it's important to be very close to our subjects so that we can see them vividly. In fact, most professional underwater photographers consider any distance of more than three feet to be too much for a quality photo. Get as close to your subject as possible. That also means you're going to need wide angle and macro lenses to get you there.

2. Shoot on Sunny Days

Your largest light source is the sun. You're going to have more visibility on a sunny day than you would on an overcast one. The difference is significant enough to have a lot of influence on the overall look of your image. Shoot on a bright day and your lighting will benefit. If you shoot on an overcast day then you will find everything to be darker under the surface, which makes your job a lot harder.

3. Use a Flash

Getting close to the subject using the available light will only get you so far. Compensate by using your camera's flash to give you some wonderful fill light. Not only will the flash fill in the dark areas but it will also restore some of the color that was absorbed by the water. This helps you achieve an image with vibrant colors as opposed to something that looks very blue. 

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