Aug 012011

Maybe you’ve snorkeled a time or two, and you want to capture your next snorkeling experience on film? Or perhaps you purchased a disposable underwater camera and wished you had better quality images?  It’s easier than ever to get great underwater snorkeling photos, thanks to the new class of underwater point and shoot cameras and the vast array of underwater housings.

Read on for my 10 essential tips for better underwater snorkeling photos.

1)  Chose your photo gear wisely.  Are you a snorkeler who does not dive? If so, there are several good underwater point and shoot cameras on the market.  These are cameras that can be used underwater without the need for a separate housing, such as the Olympus Tough, Panasonic Lumix, Pentax Optio and Canon D10.  I often shoot my snorkeling photos with a Canon D10 (EDITED TO ADD:  the Canon D20 is now available).  Among the reasons why I love this camera are the ease of use and image quality.  It’s one of the best cameras in its class (but not the smallest or sleekest). If you snorkel AND dive, observe camera depth ratings, as you will likely need a camera with separate underwater housing (I like the Canon G12 and S100 models).

2)  Know how to care for your gear.  Yes, it’s a pain, but do yourself a favor and read the manual!  Check camera seals before entering the water, and make sure to rinse your camera in freshwater after it has been used in saltwater.  Do not leave your camera in bright sunlight.

3)  Secure your camera under water!  You don’t want to lose your new investment, or worse yet, your irreplaceable images.  I use a wrist strap and check it often.

4)  Find an active coral head, bommie, pass or cleaning station and WAIT. Let the sea life come to you. Practice the art of hovering.  The more you watch, the more you learn about fish behavior.

5)  Just like when shooting people, there are flattering angles and optimal lighting conditions for shooting sea life while snorkeling.  Find the right depth and light combination for your subject.  Shallow depths and bright sunlight can produce beautiful images in a colorful coral garden or even contrasting against a sandy bottom.

6)  Consider the background when shooting reef fish.  It’s easier to shoot fish that contrast with their background than to capture well camouflaged subjects.

7)  Keep an eye in the frame.  Sea life photos are much more alluring when the subject’s eye is visible and in focus.

8)  Remember the rule of thirds – a basic principle of photo composition.  Digital Photography School has a great tutorial by Darren Rowse here.

9)  Remember your sunblock.  As you snap away at the world below, it’s easy to lose track of time (I’ve been known to spend 3 straight hours in the water taking snorkel photos).  I always wear a rashguard to protect my arms and torso, but the backs of the legs, ears and neck can be vulnerable to overexposure.  Make sure to use a quality waterproof sunblock or wear a wetsuit or skin.

10)  Get as close to your subject as possible.  Many reef fish look more beautiful at close range, and you may get greater saturation of their intricate color details.  Use your camera’s zoom feature, when necessary (but try not to over use).

Do you have any helpful tips for great snorkeling photos?

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  2 Responses to “Snorkeling Photography for Beginners – 10 Essential Tips for Better Photos”

  1. I recommend using a neck lanyard so when you aren’t snapping photos, you have full use of both hands. I have addidas one with a plastic buckle snap that I attaches to my camera’s wrist strap. Then I can quickly release the camera from the lanyard for certain shots, or hand it off to someone else and still have use of the wrist strap.

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