Ever been baffled on how underwater photographers snap the most minute creatures in such magnificent detail? Perhaps wondered whether the winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year were carefully planned or super lucky (or both!)? Us too, so we interviewed professional underwater photographer Saeed Rashid for his top underwater photography tips for beginner photographers...
1. Keep Your Critters Close
It might sound obvious but one of the best tips for capturing the perfect shot is to get closer. While this might be easy with stationary subjects, with timid fish remember to take your time, watch your surroundings and never poke, prod or harass your subject to get them closer to your lens. We are guests in their world and there should be no shortage of subjects on the reef.
2. Behavioural Instincts
Talk to most dive guides and they will tell you that they rarely look for the subjects themselves but the habitat in which they live. Some critters, like the 'Shaun the Sheep' nudibranch or a whip coral shrimp, can be so small they appear as a tiny dot but if you know the type of places to look you can find these amazing critters. Grab yourself a magnifying glass and keep it in your BCD pocket as it will significantly aid your search for some of the smaller subjects in the sea.
3. A Lightbulb Moment
Artificial lighting - the use of strobes (flashes) and occasionally continuous lights (torches) - is important for photographing the smaller fish and critters on the reef. Spend time practicing in a swimming pool before you get out on the reef and when you do take a photo check it out on the camera screen, zooming into the corners just to make sure you have them positioned correctly. Remember, with lights you can get a big difference with only a small change so adjust settings a little at a time.
4. Think Composition
Try and make something in your photograph the focal point. This could be a fan coral on a wall, the eye of a fish or even your buddy - this will add interest and really help your image 'pop'. See if you can add depth to your composition by shooting along a reef or blurring the background. Many people will tell you to fill the frame with the subject but a clever use of so-called negative space can be just as powerful.
5. Never Shoot Down, Except…
When I teach new underwater photographers, I often talk about getting 'clean water' behind your subject. The best way to do this is to get down below or at least eye level with your subject. For me, the only time you break this rule is when you're photographing something that has an attractive back such as a turtle, shark or ray.
6.A Beautiful Backdrop
Even when you are photographing the most colourful and exciting subjects a messy background can ruin your photograph. Experienced photographers often look for background first then search for a foreground subject to add interest. I will often follow a fish in my viewfinder and only press the shutter when it ventures to a more photogenic location.
Want to perfect your photography skills on your next diving holiday? Get in touch with one of our team to discover more.