Taking Underwater Pictures

Date: 06 June 2012

A couple of people have asked about how I take underwater pictures. I want to put down some decent answers to that.

The camera I have been using is a Canon D10. It has been an absolutely wonderful tool. You have to take care of it if you want it to work long term. This winter I have taken 2572 underwater pictures with it and 572 pictures on the beach. I think that the beach pictures are more of a danger to the proper working of the camera than the underwater pictures. If you get sand in the 2 little doors of the camera the sand can cause the camera to leek and that is the end. Dead camera. To prevent this I have been using blue painters tape over the doors every time I take the camera out of the boat. I also put some silicon grease for O-rings (available at most dive shops) on the little O-rings in the doors. This makes it easier to open and close the doors and helps to get a good seal.

Lots of practice helps in getting good pictures. Nobody is seeing any of the bad pictures that I took at the beginning.

Lots and lots of pictures to go through helps too. I take way more bad pictures that I take good ones. Sometimes the camera focuses on the wrong thing. Bad picture. Sometimes I forget to hold my breath and keep still wile taking the picture. It is not that easy to keep still while trying to stay 10 feet down especially when you are more buoyant than the water. Go down. Hold your breath. Keep motionless. Don’t float up. Point camera in correct direction. Don’t scare fish. Take picture.

Remember to put the camera on underwater. That will help with the color balance. It will make your originals passable. If you forget and take a bunch of pictures then they will all have a very green look to them. Photoshop “Image” / “Auto Color” will fix it.

Always edit your good pictures before you show them to anybody. I use Photoshop Creative Suite. So this will detail what I do with Photoshop.

Use “Auto Tone” and the “Auto Contrast”. Usually these will improve the picture. Then I go into “Images”, “Curves”, and split out the “Red” from the RGB. The deeper the picture the more I increase the Red color. If the picture is very deep, 15 feet down I will also decrease the green a little and the blue a little. Then I go over to the “Filters” menu and find “Sharpen”. After this point it is just standard photo editing. Are the fish the correct color? If not it is back to “Curves”. Is the exposure correct? Can I crop the image and get a better image? Should this image just go in the trash? How is the focus?

On an average 1 hour snorkeling trip I usually took approximately 150 pictures. Of those usually I will get 3 to 5 that I like. Luck plays a big part. Lots and lots of trips in the water is the kind of luck that you need if you want to swim over a sea turtle. Look under a lot of rocks and you will find a sleeping shark or a giant lobster sooner or later. Either one may make a really classy picture.

The Cannon D10 is very good with battery usage. Usually I get around 700 pictures on a fresh battery. I have never filled the memory card. I always wash the camera in fresh water after diving. I always take all the pictures out of the camera each evening after diving. Quite often I have gone back the next day to take pictures of some particular things that I took bad pictures of the previous day.

The most important rule is to have fun! Swim lots and get exercise. Remember when snorkeling to not breath under water. If you are not wearing snorkel don’t breath with you face pointed down in the water. Try to keep water out of you nose. Don’t sneeze inside your snorkel mask. Laugh a lot – remember that the fish are all laughing at you – you just can’t hear them. Don’t float too long without moving – it feels weird when a sea gull decides to land on your back.