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Diving and photography -- each hard to master in their own right, and when combined they make for a very challenging hobby. That’s why we’ve compiled a few tips to help you get the most out of your underwater experience. Learn what scene modes are, get a few hints on composition -- and much more -- in this guide to Getting Started in Underwater Photography.


The Olympus cameras have incorporated “instant expert” modes that will set your camera to the correct settings to achieve beautiful underwater imagery starting on your first underwater photo shoot. These scene modes incorporate underwater wide photography for scenic and underwater landscapes such as wrecks, walls, etc., a fast-shooting sequential mode for photographing fast-moving fish and other marine life, and an underwater macro mode for shooting those beautiful underwater closeup shots that you encounter on every dive. Many of the cameras also have an underwater snapshot mode that will enable proper skin tones when photographing your buddies underwater.
Work on mastering proper diving skills. You always want to respect the reef while getting your photos. With proper buoyancy, you will be able to focus on the important stuff, like getting the shot.
You are never as close as you think when taking pictures underwater. When you think you are close enough, move in closer. Start thinking about getting less water between you and your subject. Zoom with your flippers, not your zoom.
Flash is your best tool underwater. The deeper you go the less light you have. Light puts color back into the photo. Flash is daylight-balanced and provides a great source of light to illuminate your underwater scene. Work on balancing flash exposure with ambient light exposure to create dramatic underwater photos. Off-camera flashes work best because they can be positioned exactly where you need them and minimize or eliminate backscatter.
Underwater photography is not a race. Many times you will remain in one place during your dive to get that one spectacular shot. Let the marine life get comfortable with you. Remember you are a guest in their home, so it will take some time for them to relax with you in their setting. Be patient and wait for the shot; it will be well worth it in the end.
Shoot upward underwater – it adds drama and a sense of urgency to the shot. Use the rule of thirds, which breaks your camera frame into three horizontal and three vertical lines. Where these imaginary lines intersect is where you want key elements in your photograph to fall. Shoot at different angles and explore your subject by shooting multiple frames at different camera positions and not taking just one photo of one subject.
Work on getting correct exposure. When using scene mode the camera is going to set the proper exposure for you. As you get more comfortable with your camera settings you can use the exposure compensation to tweak your exposure and fine-tune your underwater image even more. You can also experiment with setting your own white balance. Most underwater photographers prefer the preset “cloudy” setting when photographing underwater.
The great thing about the digital-camera age is instant gratification. With the advent of high-capacity media cards you have the capability of shooting hundreds of images on each dive. Be creative, take chances, experiment. Shoot horizontals and verticals. You will learn from every frame you take, good or bad. Shoot wide, shoot movement, shoot macro, shoot, shoot, shoot! Most importantly, have fun and dive safely.

View the complete “Getting Started in Underwater Photography” advertorial as featured in Sport Diver magazine. (PDF 1.97MB)