Dare to dive under? A basic guide to underwater photography 📷🦀

By 22nd August 2019 March 1st, 2020 3 Comments

Delve into the depths of the underwater world with our Your Shore Beach Rangers project Apprentice Jodie, whether you’re a rockpooler, snorkeller or scuba diver.

Well hello there! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Jodie – the project apprentice on the Your Shore Beach Rangers team and a graduate of the Marine and Natural History Photography course at Falmouth University.

Me during a shark dive off the coast of Nassau, the Bahamas © Photograph by Giovanni Stuart

I wouldn’t consider myself the typical marine conservationist as such, if there even is such a thing. Through beginning my PADI diving qualifications, taking a camera underwater and witnessing the spectacular behaviour of the marine life around me, I fell in love with our oceans and all there is to it. During my degree, I was fortunate enough to complete photographic projects around the world; in the Galápagos Islands, Egypt, Antigua, the Bahamas as well as here at home in our beautiful Cornish seas. Cornwall’s marine environment is extraordinary to say the least, and if you look close enough, there’s some fascinating marine species to be found in lots of different places. Through my work as a photographer and digital communicator, I’ve developed a HUGE passion for inspiring people to love our marine life, and hopefully after reading this article, you’ll want to do to the same through your images too!

Underwater photography can be a great skill to have, whether you’re a rockpooling fanatic wanting to ID the species you find, or an avid scuba diver wishing to create some breathtaking underwater imagery to share online. If you’re part of one of our local marine groups in Cornwall’s Your Shore Network, it could be an incredible way of engaging younger people with our marine environment, as well as those who may not be able to enter the sea or the rocky shore.

Capture your rockpooling finds through the art of photography!

But you might be wondering by now how to get started. Just because it’s underwater, don’t feel the need to get your diving qualifications… just yet! It may be obvious, and I’ve already mentioned it previously, but having an underwater camera can be a great additional tool for your rockpooling sessions. It allows you to get up, close and personal with our fantastic shoreline species… without all the faff of donning a wetsuit or any other gear! If you are looking to take it to the next level though, we have some fantastic dive centres around Cornwall who will get you started either on your PADI Open Water or BSAC Ocean Diver course.

Another misconception with underwater photography is the need to have an expensive camera when you start out. There are plenty of options for both small-scale and large-scale budgets, including smaller compact cameras which are easy to use and get to grips with. Here at YSBR (and Shoresearch Cornwall), we currently use the Olympus Tough TG-5, a camera which already comes in its own waterproof housing, and we’ve been getting fantastic results as you may have seen on our social media! So, no matter what the budget is, make sure you get to know the ins and outs of your camera and how it works first.

Jodie’s top tips for composing your images underwater:

Now you’re armed with some of the basic information you need to start your adventures in underwater photography, here’s a few tips for when you’re setting up your shot underwater…

There are many different ways to capture our marine life. Just remember… try not to cause any disturbance to the animal. © Photographs by Jodie Holyoake

  • Get as close to your subject as possible… but not too close!
    It’s important to remember just how lucky we are to witness such fantastic marine life around Cornwall, and that we wouldn’t want to cause any disturbance in any way. However, remember that the water between your camera and the subject will reduce colour, contrast and sharpness of your image. So best to minimise that space!
  • Stay low and shoot up.
    If you aim your camera downwards, you will end up with your subject blending into the background. If you want to separate your subject from the background, you can achieve this by shooting slightly upwards or by having your camera level with your subject to create some perspective.
  • Think about your composition.
    Do not necessarily centre your subject within the the image. It’s important to fill the frame, but make sure to get the subject’s eye in focus!
  • Stay put.
    Photograph your subject, review your images, adjust if you need to and reshoot. It’s important to evaluate your images as you’re going along so that you can adjust your position or settings of your camera as needed. Take several shots of each subject until you are happy with them.

Photography is certainly harder underwater. It takes a considerable amount of practice before you start to achieve those awesome images that you hoped for when starting out. But it’s not always just about your images. You have the ability to take your camera to places that most people would never dream of taking theirs to. Having the opportunity to photograph an underwater world that not many people get to see is an amazing thing… just think of how many people could be inspired by your images!

If you’re looking for more advice, or you’re one of our local marine groups wanting to get an underwater camera for your work, please email [email protected] as we may be able to help you with funding. Thanks for reading – let us know in the comments below if you enjoyed the article!

© All images by Jodie Holyoake

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Corinne Dickson says:

    Fantastic article Jodie . You show great passion in your article look forward to reading more .

  • Diane says:

    Fantastic blog Jodie, you make me feel quite envious… x

  • Matt Slater says:

    Great Job Jodie!! One thing that has really helped my under water photography is getting a light on my camera – I use small powerful LED lights and they are getting more and more affordable these days – having the light with you helps you spot good stuff and helps your camera focus – sometimes you dont need any flash but even if you have the flash on it seems to help you get sharper images. I now have two lights both with arms! its also better for video!!

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