Underwater Photography: 12 Mistakes to Avoid

Is underwater photography something you want to become good at? Do you think you’ve got what it takes? We’ll have you know that underwater photography is not a simple walk in the park (or in this case, the sea). Snapping photos under the sea is sometimes very different than basic photography. That’s because there’s a whole new world down there, a mysterious labyrinth of corals, rocks, and wildlife, where the laws of optics get severely distorted.

Don’t worry though! You may know that Elena Kalis, Eric Engbretson, and Howard Schatz are famous photographers. Even they didn’t know anything about the subject at first. So if you want to make a career out of it and start publishing your snapshots in famous magazines, you’d better learn some quick tips and tricks.

underwater photography tips

The beautiful marine wildlife is waiting for you, all you have to do is press a button. Here’s a guide of 12 mistakes to avoid:

1. Relaxation Is on Holiday

National Geographic has a great selection of animal photography. Let’s say you’re underwater and you see one of your favorite fishes lost in a dance with other sea creatures. It’s easy to get frantic while looking for your camera in a wild rush. You’ll not only get overly agitated and snap a blurry photo, you’ll also more than likely scare the fish away.

Other than patience, underwater photography requires calm, and a long period of training. Tell yourself that everything will be alright, then reach for your camera. Nothing, not even a wave can stop you now.

2. Blurred Subjects Everywhere

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors, PADI in short, have many tips for novice photographers. The oceans and seas Mother Nature blessed us with are rich in all kinds of fish species. Be they colorful, or monochrome, fast swimmers, or slow lurkers, you need to be prepared to press the camera button at any time to capture them.

Here is some advice from PADI: the best thing to do is pick a strobe and stick with it. Check and see if its shutter speed is good enough to freeze a subject that swims like a race car. That usually means higher than 1/70th of a second.

3. You Snap Pics Horizontally

Raise your hands if you don’t understand people who film vertically with their iPhone. When you’re underwater, though, no one will judge you for that since fish aren’t really virtual underwater photography connoisseurs. Snapping pics with the landscape setting on is a no-no, especially for reef scenes.

On the other hand, photos taken with the portrait option don’t include important background details. Once you know this, you’ll have no problem participating in a photography competition.

4. You’re Too Far Away from a Subject

This is one of the most common mistakes if you don’t know how to find the best distance to not to scare wildlife away. That also happens when you want to take professional pics of your beautiful dogs diving underwater with your GoPro gear.

The best advice you’ll hear: “Get close, then get closer”. There’s a good reason for that: the amount of water shooting through is minimal. Approach your subjects from a small distance. Things such as contrast, saturation, and color will improve.

underwater photography fish

5. Irregular Lighting

Wide-angle images tend to be badly lit when shooting underwater. We recommend turning off the strobe, then exposing the scene with ambient light. This settles the blues. When you’re done, add the device’s strobe light back in.

There are many internship programs available for those wishing to learn more about lighting and how it can greatly improve the quality of a setting and the resulting photography.

6. Not Enough Patience

Calm isn’t the only quality an underwater photographer should have. Patience is key if you want to show your friends amazing images of the Coral Reef. It’s always a good idea to take your time when photographing your surroundings. Don’t just focus, press the shutter button, and be done with it. Such a happy snappy attitude will make you miss out on some amazing results.

Use all those 16GB in your camera. You will probably end up with something so good, NYC art galleries will be begging to organize an exhibition for your creations.

7. Loss of Color

What looks vibrant above water doesn’t anymore when you’re under the sea. Images turn blue and red is invisible. Water acts like a filter upon colors, absorbing and distorting most warm shades, and giving them a bluish hue.

If you’re too far away from the subject, you’ll get the same result. Getting up-close-and-personal and strobing the lights are the perfect and simple ways to solve the problem. A fisheye lens or a good filter offer some other quick fixes.

8. No Sharpness

Just like regular photography, underwater images need focus. When your subject isn’t sharp, the picture will look bad. If you want to photograph a fish, find its eyes and focus on them. Regular training done at a workshop or dedicated photography course can work wonders.

After you complete one of them, look for diving lessons and for jobs to practice what you’ve learned. Martin Edge shares helpful tips and tricks if you go to his online channel. He discusses macro photography, filters, and everything else in-between.

9. Too Much Editing

As we all know, beginner photographers love over-editing their images. This isn’t the way to make sure your photos are flawless. Martin Edge suggests that what you need to do is think of editing as a tool. When you want to increase exposure in post-processing, use manual exposure underwater.

underwater photography editing

10. Don’t Look Down

When immersed in the art of underwater photography, it’s best if you don’t try to shoot from an overhead perspective. The lighting will distort your image and the photo will be out of focus. Instead of picturing things from above, try and take your photo from another viewpoint: from the side or from down below.

11. Too Much Backscatter

When strobes aren’t placed correctly, backscatter appears. Move them further out and make sure they’re behind the lens. If visibility is low, use ambient light by slowing the shutter and opening the aperture.

12. Too Much Clutter

Admiring semi-nude models at fashion underwater shoots in Hawaii or Australia is fine. Looking at a busy reef in photos, on the other hand, is tiresome. Concentrate on the details of your subject, even if it’s just your pet dog swimming in a pool. You can also try your hand at maternity photography where the model is the baby girl or boy.

underwater photography fashion

Shooting photos of brides and grooms during a wedding session are perfect opportunities to propose an underwater shoot! It doesn’t matter if you take 200 photos and all are bland. Post-processing will bring these photos to life. There are a couple of blogs you can take inspiration from. Several books have also been written on the subject. Another tip for you: surf the Internet for schools that offer underwater photography classes.

If you want to make a splash with your underwater photography skills, these are the things to avoid. You don’t really need professional equipment or special techniques as long as you listen to these small tips. A DSLR, digital cameras, or iPhones with waterproof cases work just as well. Simply follow the list of the most common mistakes for underwater photography included in this tutorial and you’ll be fine.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Do You Make These 10 Mistakes When You Sell Your Photography?

Are you a natural at selling?

Don’t worry. Very few of us are.

Selling isn’t something you have to fear, or even avoid. It’s a natural part of owning and operating your business.

While focusing on what you should do has its benefits; sometimes it’s easier to learn what to avoid, and simply incorporate those tips into your sales presentation. It can help you see what you are potentially doing wrong, and how its impacting you, your business and your potential clients. If you see yourself in any of these mistakes, use them as a strategy for improving your sales presentations.

Think your client knows more than they do

You live with photography every day. You are entrenched in the culture, and have a true love for everything camera related. While your customers may have an appreciation for great art, they probably don’t have the same passion you do for the photographic industry. Never assume anything – always tell them why you are doing everything.

For example, they probably won’t care that you are using a Canon DSLR EOS 5D Mark II, with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. But they will care that you are using professional equipment, and you have multiple bodies and lens options to capture every moment, and be available at all times, even if one of your bodies or lenses fail. That also arms them with knowledge, and they can take that to the next photographer they interview. “Do you carry multiple bodies and lenses?” You would be surprised at the number of photographers that don’t. And it also puts you in a better light with the potential client. [Read more…]

3 Mistakes Photographers Make When Selling Wedding Albums

If you photograph weddings, you probably have a package or two in which you offer an album. And in many cases, your package probably looks something like this:

  • Up to 5 hours of photography
  • Over 200 images on copyright-free CD
  • 20 page bridal album
  • 11×14 Portrait Print
  • Online gallery of your wedding photos to share with friends and family worldwide

The bride knows she will receive a CD full of images, and be able to view the images online, and share them with her family and friends from around the world.

She also knows she can take weeks or even months to select a few of her favorites, and have them put into a bridal album.

But it doesn’t matter what photos she selects, how they fit together, or how the will look side by side. She simply selects her favorites, and you as the photographer will force them into some type of order, and create an album from the final selection.

I’ve seen books like this.

An image of the bride walking down the aisle is set next to a formal of the bride outside at the reception. The first dance is placed along side of the couple kissing by the limo.

In other words, there is no rhyme or reason to the way the album is put together; it’s simply a hodgepodge of images thrown together to form a book of pictures.

Wedding albums aren’t meant to be a book of pictures. They are meant to be the story of the wedding day.

First Mistake: The Photographer Lets The Bride Make The Selection

If you allow a bride to choose her favorite images, she thinks from an individual level, not from a cumulative factor. She can’t see an album because it hasn’t happened yet. She doesn’t imagine how they will look together side by side; she simply chooses based on her best expressions, and her favorite moments.

When she receives the album, it will simply go on the shelf because it’s a book of pictures. It has no meaning – its just 20+ large images from her event.

As a photographer, you should be photographing a wedding to tell the story of the day. With wedding photography, photos work together in order to bring you back to the memories of the event itself. A formal out in the gardens is great, but it’s “just” a photo of the bride and groom. But when you have a series of images of the bride and groom walking through the gardens, talking with their flower girl, sneaking kisses along the way, it becomes a story – and a memory.

As a photographer, you need to think in story format. You need to take one photograph, and then another, and another – all to work together and provide an intimate look into the event itself. Its up to you to tell the story, and present the images in such a way that the bride and groom relive the wedding again and again. [Read more…]

7 Common Time Management Mistakes

So you work out of your home, and you’re wondering why the business isn’t as strong as it should be. Is your business really your top priority?

While I love working out of my home and wouldn’t trade it for anything, you have to be disciplined to make sure everything works.

Perhaps you feel overloaded, that there is so much to do you’ll never catch up. Or maybe you live for the crisis to appear, dreading it all the way. This is the first sign of failure. If you let this feeling of overwhelm seep in, you’ll quickly be on a downward spiral instead of building for the future.

Take charge now. If any of these pitfalls are affecting you now, its time to make a change.

Mistake #1 Failing To Keep A To Do List

Have you ever had that nagging feeling that you are missing something? If so, you probably don’t use a to do list in order to keep things prioritized. Many people think to do lists are a sign of weakness, or a sign of a bad memory. Not true at all. Instead, a to do list keeps you balanced and focused. And helps you prioritize what you will do during the day, and what should take precedence over everything else.

Dig Deeper: How To Create a To Do List You Actually Stick With And Do

Mistake #2: Not Setting Personal Goals

It’s easy to establish business goals. In fact you probably have a list of them in your office. Even if it’s a short list, business goals come easy as we are focusing in on our businesses. But what about your personal goals? What are your business dreams going to do to help you achieve all you want out of life?

Business goals help you establish the type of lifestyle you’ve dreamed about. But once you have the funding within the business, your personal goals are what give your life meaning. Do you want a one month family vacation every summer? Or to be able to buy your dream house? Or maybe send your kids to the colleges of their choice?

Create both sides of your dream, and use it to define what you do every day. The bigger and more concrete your dreams are, the better chance you have of achieving them.

Mistake #3: Not Prioritizing

Everyone has things they love to do, and things they hate. When your to do list is filled with both, you’ll quickly move the things you love to the top of your list – unless you prioritize.

I once worked with a business owner who hated phone calling. In fact she would do whatever she could to avoid picking up the phone. She admitted it up front to me, so we knew that was her weakness. While I never advise anyone to take up cold calling, there are times when it’s important to call “strangers” and make a connection.

If this business owner has a task of “calling” on her list, it will always be at the bottom. Even if she has to choose between “taking out the trash” and “calling the potential customer”, she would prefer the trash.

When you realize this, you have to change what you do. You have to prioritize your to do list, and start doing the things you hate if they should be at the top of your list. It’s the only way you’ll grow. [Read more…]