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10 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Your Underwater Photography

Hold your camera in line with the eyes of your subject, to get them in focus.
CREDITS | Text and Photos Kate Jonker

You always wanted to learn how to take underwater photos so that you can share the beauty of the ocean with your friends and family? Perhaps you have given it a go and feel you need some advice and guidance?

Here are a few tips and tricks I have learned through my own experiences
Be aware of your surroundings and ensure you have good buoyancy.
First things first

Buoyancy, buoyancy, buoyancy! Before you take your camera into the water, make sure you have your buoyancy sorted so that you don’t land up kicking the reef, dislodging marine life or disturbing the natural environment. If you must hold on to something to steady yourself in the surge, try to use one finger or a finger and thumb on a bare rock where there is no growth.

Never move, nudge, or handle marine life to get a “wow” shot, even if you feel the octopus / cuttlefish / nudibranch / fish is seeking out interaction. By touching marine life, you are removing the slimy mucous coating they have that protects them from bacteria and infection – and many marine animals can give you a very nasty sting. If it is not perfectly positioned, take a shot to record what you saw and go and seek out a better-placed subject. No marine life should be destroyed, harassed, or tampered with to get the perfect image!  

Setting up your camera

Prepare your housing the night before you go diving, in a clean, quiet place where you can work systematically and will not be disturbed.  Check the o-ring in the door of the housing by removing it and carefully checking both the groove it sits in – and the o-ring - for dust, hairs and other particles which will prevent them from doing their job properly (protecting your valuable camera!). If you are fitting a different port to the front of your DSLR or mirrorless housing, do the same with that o-ring and groove.

Put the camera into the housing and check that all buttons work and take a test shot, especially if you are using a strobe, to make sure that the camera works as it should and that the strobe will fire the minute you hit the water. If you use two strobes, take separate test shots with each strobe to make sure they are both firing.
Try taking a fish portrait at 45 degrees – with one eye looking at you!
Focus on the rhinophores, which take the place of “eyes” for nudibranchs.
In the water
Try not to take your photos from above. Shoot slightly up or across - but not down, unless the creature is beautiful when seen from above (e.g. the patterned shell of a turtle).

Eyes are the first thing people will look at in a photo – so make sure the eyes are in focus and looking at you! This can be the eyes of a fish, or the rhinophores of a nudibranch (which can be perceived as its eyes).

Fish portraits are great if you take them directly from the front. For an interesting alternative, you can also take the photo at 45 degrees, where the closest eye is looking at you and you can still see the eye that is further away.

Get to know your subject – especially nudibranchs – try to get them from the front and not from behind (eliminate those “butt shots”).
Dive safely – always be aware of your surroundings, your air, bottom time and where your buddy is.
Dive safely with your camera

Keep an eye on your air and dive time – always. Make sure you are close to your buddy! Being safe underwater is far more important than pushing the limits for a good shot.


About the author
Kate Jonker a writer and underwater photographer based in Gordon’s Bay, just outside Cape Town. She is a regular contributor to numerous underwater photography and diving magazines and her images have been featured in both local and international publications. A regular judge in international underwater photography competitions, she teaches underwater photography and is a qualified dive boat skipper and dive guide for Indigo Scuba Diving Centre which she and her husband own and run in Gordon’s Bay. Kate’s passion lies with sharing her love of the ocean and her underwater experiences with others through photography and storytelling.

“Photography is a fantastic medium with which to create an awareness of the beauty - and plight - of our oceans. Images can stir many emotions and we, as underwater photographers, have the opportunity to tell visual stories about our underwater world to encourage its protection and preservation.”

Get in contact or follow:
Website: www.katejonker.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katejonkerphotography/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KateJonkerPhotography
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUOVIfi0qDGMRfiRUzeZ_TQ
Indigo Scuba:
Website: www.indigoscuba.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/indigoscuba/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/indigoscuba
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0mGtOa7vPAB7IrxySSKSTA

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