The underwater photographer’s 10 commandments

Taking photos while diving requires you to follow certain rules .

First of all to get nice pictures of course, but also to respect the surrounding fauna and flora and to comply to the safety instructions.

Discover 10 tips from professional underwater photographers

1. Underwater photographer …. fauna and flora, you will respect

Any good underwater photographer must respect the environment and the subjects that the photographs.

In general, manipulating or moving your subjects isn’t recommended.

« If the subject you want to photograph isn’t well placed , it’s ok , leave it alone , it will be for next time »

Just as prosecution or harassment, especially with cetaceans, is to be avoided.

You also are to  be careful at the footprint you leave behind yourself.

In fact , you simply can’t leave any footprint . So , be very careful where you stand and becareful not to harm the corals , etc….

A great underwater photograph is one that’s taken while respecting the surrounding environnement.

underwater photographer - Advices to begin underwater and scuba diving photography-Gabriel barathieu

2. Security, you will never neglect

No photo is worth putting your life or your partern’s life at risk.

Underwater photography requires a huge amount of attention and a perfect self and diving management .

You have to be at ease underwater before thinking about taking photographs.

“When we look throught the viewfinder , we tend to forget everything else”

Therefore you often have to check your own consumption as well as your partner’s »

Especially when the depth increases.


3. Your stabilization will be perfect

Stabilization is a key component of a beautiful underwater image.

First of all to prevent yourself from breaking corals.

A great stabilization is a must for any subject you photography. The softer the approach , without any rought movement ,  the relaxed the subject will be .

« In macro photography , a good stabilization will allow you to have a sharper focus . Especially if you use a macro ring , in which case the depth of field will be much shorter»

To finish with , a great stabilization will dramatically lower your consumption.


4. Your camera, on the fingertips you will master

This seems obvious !

However , I often cross the road of diving photographers , sometimes not even beginners , that  have a bad or small knowledge of their underwater camera.

« Master your camera on shore is fundamental before thinking about using it underwater  »

Once you are underwater , with all the surrounding factors such as current , binomial , air management , etc…. you won’t have time to learn how your camera works.

On top of that , with the camera’s case on , it will be even harder to use it .

« You have to master your camera  on the fingertips . »

underwater photographer - Advices to begin underwater and scuba diving photography-Gabriel barathieu

5. Your gear , you will always take care of

The proper maintenance of the material ensures its longevity and its perfect functioning for a long time.

Moreover , it’s !

This is especially true as we underwater photographers , are taking big risks each and every time that we put our cameras underwater.

A few useful automatisms :

  • A good lubrication of the joints
  • A systematic fresh water  rinsing
  • Keep it away from direct sun

Make sure that each and every cable is plugged-in well. This will prevent you from realising that your flashes don’t  work while you are at the sea’s bottom.

Verify that the case is well closed before getting into wet situations .

underwater photographer - Advices to begin underwater and scuba diving photography-Gabriel barathieu

6. The exposure at best you will set

Whether or not it’s underwater , exposure is the base of photography.

However , taking a well exposed picture underwater isn’t easy.

All the more , when you are using a wide angle lens , in which case you will have to use both natural and artificial lights.

« Once the exposure is set , you are half way throught ! You must pay close attention to this setting »

It plays a very important role in terms of color  rendering of the blues of your underwater photographs .

Have a look at the following chapter : « Photography Techniques « for more technical informations.


7. Your underwater strobes , at best you will position

Positioning your submarine strobes is a key part of a beautiful diving photograph.

You will need to put in some time and a some  practice to know how to position them according to the type of result you want .

Whether it’s in macro or wide angle, a bad positioning will ruin a large number of photos.

  • either because of bad looking shadows
  • because of the particles that show up like spots on your entire photograph
  • worse, because of both

underwater photographer - Advices to begin underwater and scuba diving photography-Gabriel barathieu

 8. The composition, under water you will think about

The composition of your photograph is an essential point to the success of a photograph.

It has to be well  thought  :

  1. without too much negative space
  2. but not too crowded either

It has to be thoughtout as soon as you get closer to your subject

In fact , the way you approach your subject , the way the sun falls in , etc… will influence the final rendering of your image.


9. The RAW format, always you will use

When you capture raw images , it is the equivalent of negatives , back  in the old days  film photography.

On the opposite of  the jpeg format which is encoded in 8 bit, the RAW is coded in 16 bit.

Therefore , it contains  twice more informations than the jpeg (jpeg is a compressed format taken from RAW).

This format is the one that every photographer must use. It allows greater possibilities of post-processing without losing a ton of image quality , especially in terms of colorimetry.

Which is very important especially in underwater photography.

underwater photographer - Advices to begin underwater and scuba diving photography-Gabriel barathieu

10. Post production, never  will  you neglect

Underwater photography doesn’t stop once you get back on the boat !

There is a huge task waiting for you now : sort and retouch your images.

It’s now time to :

  • adjust the colorimetry
  • adjust tones
  • refine the contrasts

Long story short ,  it’s during this process that you add your own final touches to the image.


To finish with this topic :

It’s important to follow these 10 rules / advices

They will allow you to capture beautiful images

If you are an underwater photographer , you know that ideas are nothing without execution , so , it’s now time to get wet , and try over and over again.

Once you master the technical side of it , you will be able to focus on the creative aspect of your photos , and take them to a whole new dimension !