Here’s a few quick things I’ve learned about underwater photography from some recent immersions:
– Understand that unless you have strobes, most of your colours will disappear beyond about three metres and everything becomes blue. As a result, composition is critical.
– If you are involving others in the shoot, work out a few hand signals before you go down, ie start from here, swim to here, pause, go higher, lower, once again etc. If you know what you want to do down there, instruct them beforehand. If you have a wreck or an object to shoot, circle it as if you were on land to work out where the best light falls and where to position your talent.
– Use a tank even for the shallow stuff as it gives you ample time to swim around, find the best subject/angle and position yourself. Believe me, you won’t want to be holding your breath for as long as this can take.
– If you don’t plan to go far and you’re doing a shallow shoot in sand, wear Crocs and “space walk” when you are down, using a loaded weight belt to keep you there and air in your reg to get you to the surface when you’re done. Flippers can stir up too much sand and reduces water clarity. Obviously, if you ave distance to go, dive as normal.
– Be prepared to take a lot of shots and learn from what does and doesn’t work. Study what you come back with to avoid a repeat of your mistakes. There are definitely new lessons to be learned in terms of positioning, lighting and – most importantly – conditions. The sooner you learn them, the sooner you’re capturing better pictures.
– Generally speaking, if you haven’t got clarity and sunlight, give it a miss until conditions are more suitable.
– If you are keen on those half underwater/half above the water shots practice beforehand and, if you are working with a person, be prepared to repeat your instruction to find out what works best. Take a lot of pictures. The slightest wave movement can hide your subject and focusing can be tricky with several focal distances to consider and plenty of movement. What worked for me was the subject swimming either across me (below) or diagonally towards me, head slightly raised.
– And finally, surf the web beforehand to find underwater pictures that work for you which you’d like to add to your portfolio. I don’t think it will take long to exhaust the most common options so, when that’s done, – as it is on the surface – it will soon come down to the creative eye of the photographer to produce something special. Its a fun challenge (when you have the time).