Dave’s Photo Tips (I said TIPS!)

I'm no expert, lets get that straight from the off. However, I have been diving and doing underwater photography for few years so I hope I have some advice to give.

Basics of Underwater Photography
Colour Correcting filters

Colour balancing
Removing spots, particles and back scatter with Photoshop


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Choosing a Camera


This is probably one of the most asked questions on the forums. If you ask me I’ll always recommend Olympus. My first underwater camera was an Olympus, when I wanted to upgrade I spoke to an instructor who is big on u/w photography, he recommended Olympus.


The starter camera I recommend is the Olympus mju series. The latest is the mju 700 and costs about £330 including the housing (mju 800 is out but there is no U/W case available yet). This gets you a good camera that you can pop out of the underwater case and use it for day-to-day photos on land. The mju 400 won the equipment of the year in 2004 or so.


You can always ask at dive centres (as some advise) and they’ll do the same as me, they’ll recommend what they personally use. When I wanted to upgrade I asked the photographer at ProDivers on Kuredu when I was there. He recommended the Olympus c7070wz for me, and guess what he used the c8080!


Search the Dive magazines such as Dive and Diver who have run many comparison tests for digital point and shoot cameras.


Basics or Dave's Rules

#1 - Don't be Shy! Get up-close and personal!
The closer you are, the less water is between you and the subject and the better the photo will be. The best way is to get a wide angle lenses and dome port and swim up to what you want to photograph. Some cameras come already equipped to do wide angle shots, others you can get add on lenses.

The image above is a really simplified explanation. Reduce the amount of water between you and the subject and you will get better photographs. Of course this is easy with Lion Fish and Oceanic Whitetip Sharks that don't flee when you get close but try getting close to a Parrot Fish or a Coral Grouper, they are a pain!

#2 - Embrace the lightside my young Padawan
Lighting is absolutely crucial. There is no substitute for an external strobe. If the water is clear and you can get close the internal flash is usually fairly good, colour correcting filters are a waste of time in my opinion*

There are several methods of getting more light in your photo's. Such as staying shallow, diving at
midday, praying to the sun god to remove the cloud cover etc. Remember colour is stripped out by water in the same way as a rainbow. So first the reds go, then you loose orange, yellow, green and then it gets really blue!

It the tropics in the first 10m you don't need a flash but below this the colours really do fade. Saying that the shark pics below were taken in the
Red Sea in 5-8m depth and you can see how blue they were originally.

*Opinions are like assholes.... everyones got one!

Colour Correcting Filters

These balance out the blue of tropical waters or the green of temperate waters.

I bought one of these, took it to the
Maldives, used it on two days diving and never used it again.

Don't get me wrong I got some good shots with the filter, but I lost a lot more due to the filter.

The filter cuts down the amount of light reaching the lens. Think a pair of sunglasses. What this results in the camera increasing the time the shutter opens (shutter speed). As anyone who's used a camera knows, low light conditions require a steady hand. Try hold a camera still underwater for more than a fraction of a second...

This was the norm when I was using the filter deeper than about 10m to 12m or if it was dull. 10m down on a bright day they work wonderful as long as your subject is not under a overhang or your in the shadow of the rocks/reef. Anything that might encourage the camera to up the time the shutter is open for is likely to cause a blurred picture.

My advice is go with....

Photoshop (or similar product)

The Photoshop software has a 'Levels' menu that allows you to balance colours. It does a great job in taking 'bluey' pics (the one below is only 5-8m deep but already the filtering effect of the water is turning it blue)....

and turning them into what you did really see. You will notice there are still spots and particles in the photo below but the colours are better. Removing the spots is shown below.

The deeper you get the bigger the effect the is on colour and the more you need to correct the colours.

Photoshop is expensive but you can get a cut down version apparently and I have been told Paint Shop Pro does similar but costs a lot less.

To balance out colours in photos that are very blue (in tropical waters) or very green (in
UK waters) do the following...

1. Open photo
2. Selected 'Levels' from Image menu.

which pops up the following menu

3. Press 'Auto'

4. If the photo goes too red select the colour red and use the sliders to reduce until your happy.

5. OK
6. Save

The above won't get you the best photo's in the world, but they'll be a lot better. After a while try doing it manually with the individual red, green and blue settings.

Particles can be removed using the rubber stamp tool.

1. Zoom in on the spot to be removed.
(I've zoomed in on the white spot next to the sharks left pectoral fin from the above photos)

2. Select the rubber stamp (clone) tool.

3. Position cursor to an area close to the particle/spot you want to rub out and whilst holding the 'Alt' key on the keyboard, left click the mouse once.

4. Now move the cursor over the particle/spot and hold down the left mouse button and 'rub' over the spot. The area your clicked in #3 will copy the base area (the +) to the area where your cursor is (the O).

And hey presto the spot is gone

Zoom out, and that's magic

I've heard some people say Photoshop is very complicated and only for professionals. OK to get the absolute best from a picture I'm sure that Photoshop can do a lot more than I use it for. The above are easy to do and give cracking results.

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