Taking photos underwater is very different, the light is not the same. Just below the surface the red light from the sun starts to disappear. This causes everything to look blue, most underwater photos posted on various places taken by amateurs are very blue/green. There is a simple solution for this: Customize your white balance or use a reed filter. Changing the white balance is very easy on most compact cameras and can usually be done in just one click, just aim at your hand and press the custom white balance button. Many compact cameras have underwater mode, this is useless for diving but can be OK for snorkeling. On a DSLR it is a little harder but not too hard to change the white balance.
Whenever you want to take a photo or video using ambient light being more than 2m (6ft) under water, white balance must be changed, and when you descend or ascend you will have to change it again. You might think you can get the colors right in photoshop after diving, this is wrong, if the picture is all blue and black there is no more information to get from it, colors are gone.
Taking photo or video using artificial light is a whole different story.
Make sure to have very powerful strobes or light, even the most powerful ones don’t go far underwater, don’t bother with objects more than 2 meters away. If you are using the built in flash on your compact camera you have to be within 20 cm or closer, this is no good. When you are close enough for the strobes or light to reach your object you can have the white balance on auto. Be sure to get as close as possible and get the strobes or light source as far away from the camera as possible, this is why you have long strobe arms, to avoid backscatter. Backscatter is when particles in the water is lit up by the light and it gets worse when the light is close to the camera.
When taking macro shots the backscatter problem is not an issue because there is not so much water between the camera and the object, so get the strobes closer in this case.
You will probably not get the result you are after the first time, be patient, try again.
Get to know your camera on land in the housing before going into the water, many compacts have programmable buttons, custom white balance for example, very convenient. Most important, before attempting to be an UW photographer, master your diving skills and get your buoyancy control right, don’t step on or hold on to corals and don’t harass the wildlife!
Good Luck!
Ola & Maria are full time workers and part time adventurers, follow for photos around the world, over and under water. © sixweeks 2018
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