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Seeing the Light- Under the Sea: 20 Top Underwater Photo-taking Tips

Underwater cameras can come as cheap as cod n chips nowadays, but as our guide illustrates, its best to equip yourself with an appropriate camera and some underwater savvy knowledge before you dive straight in.

  • Get a quality camera, such as the Nikonos series as developed by Nikon, with specific underwater functions and make sure you read the camera manual thoroughly first before using. Printed Nikon Camera Manuals delivered to your door make sure you know all the functions thoroughly before your dive. You might not have time to find the right shutter speed if your subject is a tiger shark!
  • The Nikonos series of cameras, as developed by Nikon and mentioned above, are particularly suited to underwater photography, featuring ambient light meter flash circuitry and shutter design.
  • Your camera should be waterproof to 160ft (50 m) for serious diving ventures.Nikonos cameras feature dedicated underwater lenses; they were designed as "water-contact" optics, and are not actually usable in air.
  • Don't approach subjects from above, get at their level, observe them for a while, and approach slowly
  • Get as close as possible to your subject - preferably within a foot. Water reduces colour, contrast, and sharpness
  • If your underwater photos don't look sharp, check to see which shutter speed you used. It needs to be 1/30th for still objects, 1/60th for slow moving objects, and 1/125th of faster for quicker moving fish.
  • Anticipate what you might see underwater, and adjust your camera settings accordingly.
  • To ensure a good composition, get lower than the subject, shoot at an upwards angle and try to fill your frame with the subject.
  • Make sure the subject's eyes are in focus.
  • If you are shooting with natural light, shoot in 20ft of water or less, with the sun behind you.
  • Hone your diving skills before investing in a camera; you need to be able to dive safely before worrying about taking photographs.
  • Use 100mm or longer for small, fast or skittish fish. Compact users should zoom all the way out. Use a 60mm or wider lens for larger fish and Zoom in as much as necessary.
  • Seek to understand the fish's behaviour; this is essential for getting excellent fish photos. Ask questions to establish where the fish is found, what time of day they are active, and the best ways to approach them.
  • Set your camera to the highest resolution, and the lowest ISO to begin with.
  • Learn how to use manual mode or aperture priority mode if your camera features it, so you control the balance between the natural light and the light from your flash.
  • For quickest focus, use spot focus mode. Learn how to focus on an area without taking a photo (pressing the shutter button halfway) and recomposing.
  • Use a 100mm or 105mm lens to emphasize or isolate the subject, and reduce the background.
  • Get the exposure right on the camera; don't rely on post-processing
  • Bring your macro lens & port with you on the boat if you are going out to shoot wide angle. If the sky is dark and cloudy, youll be able to switch to macro before the dive, while your camera is dry, and shoot WA another time.
  • You should try to match the lens to the fish you want to photograph. The best lens depends on the size of the fish, and how close you can approach the fish.

For more information, follow the links, regarding light metering and lenses