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Whether you are just grabbing an underwater selfie, or trying for some post-worth portraits of a fish or coral reef, there are a few simple rules to follow that will improve your underwater imaging efforts. These hold true no matter if you are shooing with a smartphone in a waterproof case, GoPro or custom-housed DSLR.

Shoot on the Level

The view of the sea floor can be amazing when you are looking at it, but when seen only through the camera lens with no horizon line as a point of reference, it can often result in a confusing perspective. To avoid this, get at or slightly below the primary subject of your image. This can be a bit more challenging for snorkelers, as they may have to duck below the water to frame the shot.

Get Closer

Even water that seems clear to you isn’t as clear as the air. The less water between you and the subject, the crisper the image. Getting close is especially important, because many underwater cameras and housings come with wide-angle lenses, which make objects look farther away than they really are. If you are shooting a diver or fish, ideally they would be close enough to reach out and touch with your arm—unless you are lucky enough to come across a whale.

Good rules to follow: get low, get close. (Matthias Hiltner / Flickr Creative Commons)

Stay Shallow

It gets darker the deeper you go, while reds and yellows are the first to go. Dive to 100 feet and all you are left with is a landscape of greens and blues. High-powered underwater strobes or video lights will bring back the colours, but if you don’t want to go to all that expense and trouble, just move into the shallows where there’s more sunlight.

Be Aware of the Sun

Pay the same attention to the direction of light as you would when shooting topside. If you are diving in the middle of the day, you can shoot in any direction. But if it’s morning or afternoon, and the sunlight is coming down at an angle, you’ll want to shoot with the sun over your back or shoulder, not in front of you.

underwater photo tips

Having the sun in front of you can drown out the subject—or at least make some cool silhouettes. (Ben eBaker / Flickr Creative Commons)

Try the Slow Approach

You want to take a shot of that fish, so you swim straight for it. Chances are all you will get is a shot of its tail as it runs for cover. Most marine animals will tolerate reasonable proximity if they don’t feel threatened by a larger creature approaching at high speed. Rather than charge right at a fish or a sea turtle, try swimming on a parallel course, matching pace, and moving in gradually from the side.

Make a Plan

You’ll get better shots of a dive buddy or snorkeling companion if you come up with a plan of action before hitting the water. Have your subject get into a horizontal position, about level with the camera lens, and remind them not to look directly at the camera. If you are shooting a diver, time the shot so their face isn’t obscured by exhaust bubbles from the regulator.

Stay Off the Bottom

Unless you are kneeling in the sand for a shark feed, posing for an underwater photo should not be a contact sport. Most divers find it easier to hold position off the reef if they are moving, so you may want to set yourself up for the shot, and have your buddy fin slowly past the camera.

Keep these rules in mind on your next diving or snorkeling adventure and you’ll end up with some shots that will get far more Insta-love. And if you want some help finding the right place to make those great underwater images, get in touch with the Caradonna offices and we’ll tell you about some of our favourite snap-worthy destinations: [email protected] or +1 800-330 6611.

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