Snorkeling Photography – Tips to Create Better Pictures

DATE: July 24, 2019

AUTHOR: giwa

As much as snorkeling is fun, it can be made even more memorable by photography. However, taking a clear picture underwater is not a walk in the park and can often prove to be quite challenging. To make it easier for our users, we have compiled some tips and tricks that can help them take better shots underground and make their snorkeling photographs more vivid and stunning.

The Photographer Matters More Than the Camera

We know that this may sound like a total cliché at this point, but it is true. There is no doubt in our mind that the quality of the picture you capture depends more on your skills rather than the features of the camera. Most people jump on the bandwagon of the most expensive camera available in the market and think that by doing so, they will be able to take better shots. While this may be true in theory, it is hardly the case in real life. Really, all you need is a decent camera that you can swim with underwater. There is no need to go out and purchase the most expensive camera you can, especially as a beginner. When you click a photograph, it is very important to monitor important factors like color contrast, saturation of the filter, and the stability of your hand. Hence, if you don’t pick up these skills and monitor these aspects, it doesn’t matter if you have the best camera in the market; your pictures will always look lackluster.

Photographs Can Let You Down

Underwater cameras may do a good job at not being affected by the massive body of water around them, but they immensely let you down regarding picture quality if you aren’t prepared. It has happened to almost all of us; we saw something strikingly beautiful, so we proceeded to take a picture of it, but when we checked the photo, it captured none of the beauty of the shot. Instead, all you got was an underwhelming amalgamation of dull colors.

It is, thus, important to get the perfect shot underwater so that you can bring out the colors in the picture using some editing software like Adobe Photoshop.

Grey Fish

Snorkeling can often be a life-changing experience. When you see all the colorful fish swimming around you, you can’t help but feel inspired. However, if you try to immortalize that moment by taking a photograph, you’ll see that all the color that moved you reduced to a boring gray. If you’re wondering why that is, we have the answer for you right here.

Water Blocks Color and Light

One thing that people tend to forget is that water is dense and acts like any other object with mass. Hence, it can be a hindrance in the path of light. This means that light rays deviate a little when entering water (because of its density) and that the water behaves like a filter and boosts the shades of blue while reducing all warmer tones. This results in a huge loss of picture quality when taking photos underwater.

This can be avoided by following any (or all) of the three techniques mentioned below.

Three Techniques for Better Colors

We have discovered three ways that can help you boost the quality of your pictures by minimizing the color loss underwater. This puts you in a better position to get high-quality underwater photos, which can be made better by using a picture editing software like Photoshop. We recommend using all of the methods mentioned below for the best photo quality.

Red Filters

As discussed above, the red tones are the ones that get suppressed the most underwater. To compensate for the color loss of this shade, we recommend using red filters as they can make your underwater photographs look like a million bucks.

Adjusting the White Balance of Your Photos

This method is a no-brainer. If you ask any photographer about the importance of white balance to picture quality, they can go on for days without tiring. When taking pictures underwater, it is important to remember that the shades of white are thrown out of balance due to the density and nature of water. Thus, you can further boost the quality of your picture by adjusting its white balance.

Underwater Presets for White Balance

If you feel like you cannot adjust the white balance manually, it might be possible that your camera manufacturer has you covered. Scroll through the presets in your camera and maybe you’ll find a filter setting for underwater photographs. If you’re successful in finding this preset, we highly recommend using it as it can make a world of difference to your underwater photographs.

However, sometimes it so happens that the underwater preset does more harm than good, so it is better to take a few photographs and view them on your system (Windows or Mac) to see whether or not they look better. If they look better, stick with this filter on your next snorkeling trip, but if not, abandon it completely.

Manual White Balance Preset

If your camera has a bad underwater preset (or doesn’t have an underwater setting to begin with), it is crucial that you manually create a preset that tempers the white balance of underwater photographs. The importance of white balance to picture quality is tantamount because it tells the camera what shades are white in a picture. This, in turn, allows the camera to skew the colors correctly. As a result of this, pictures taken underwater are more vivid and richer than ever before.

To manually create a setting, all you need to do is point your camera’s lens at something white in your vicinity. Now the camera knows the current shade of white and adjusts all the colors relative to your selection. What makes this even better is the fact that your camera latches on to this setting until you manually change it again. This makes it ideal for underwater photography as you don’t have to change the preset again and again.

Tips for Setting the White Balance

  • It is better if you reset the white balance if you change your depth underwater.
  • Remember to change the white balance setting again if your position with respect to the sun changes significantly.
  • If the weather suddenly becomes cloudy, we recommend resetting the white balance again to adjust future pictures for the change.

How Photoshop Can Help

Photoshop is the ultimate image editing software available in the market today. You can develop a certain degree of mastery over this software by completing tutorials and small projects that are available on the internet for free. Thankfully, the internet is also littered with underwater photography editing tutorials for Photoshop, which can help you improve the quality of your pictures.

If you want to edit and correct the colors of a picture in Photoshop, open the said picture in the software and a new adjustment layer. On the right panel, you’ll see an option labeled ‘levels’; click on that. This will take you to a sub-menu with many options; click on the one that says ‘RGB.’ Now adjust the level of the red such that the middle arrow is brought to the left. Do this while you’re viewing your picture and you’ll see the color correction take place in real time. Edit all the layers until you’re satisfied with the quality of the image and save it in a viewable format.

If you feel like that’s too much work, Photoshop also has an Auto Color option, which automatically does this task for you. However, sometimes the results of this setting are massively underwhelming, so be careful before saving.

Edit Your Contrast, Exposure, Shadow, Highlights, and Saturation Levels in Photoshop

While we are on the topic of using Photoshop to boost the image quality, there are some other things that you can do as well to accomplish the task at hand. We recommend proceeding in the following order.

Crop Your Picture to Improve Its Composition

Begin by cropping the image such that the subject is now sitting comfortably at the center. This will help you improve your composition as you can remove all the background objects that are stealing the spotlight from the subject of the image.

Increase Contrast

After you are done cropping your image, we suggest tweaking its contrast. We say this because underwater photographs tend to have low levels of contrasts, so by increasing your contrast level, you are making the picture look richer.

Vary the Exposure and Brightness of the Image

While you’re using Photoshop, it is easy to adjust the brightness and exposure levels of an image. This will help you normalize the underexposed or overexposed areas in an underwater picture.

Adjust the Shadows and Highlights

Adjust the shadows and highlights of your picture to make the dark spots appear brighter and to tone down the already extra-bright spots.

Increase the Saturation

After you have done all the tasks mentioned above and still don’t feel that your picture looks alright, increase its color saturation to iron out the final details and make it look as rich as it can.

Improve Composition to Capture More Aesthetically Pleasing Shots

Composition states the relation of your picture’s subject to its background. If your subject is way off to the side, rectify it by moving such that it is now at the center. It may not sound like much, but trust us, adjusting the composition a little goes a long way in capturing more aesthetically pleasing photographs.

Tip #1 – Make Sure Your Background and Subject Complement Each Other

Your subject should be the focal point of your picture. If the picture focuses too much on the background than the subject, you know that you have taken a bad picture. The best thing you can to do to improve a picture’s composition is making sure that the background and subject play off each other well.

Tip #2 – Don’t Be Too Far Away from Your Subject

Often otherwise good snorkeling photos are ruined because the photographer is too far away from the subject. This results in the subject looking like nothing but a blurry figure. To minimize the probability of this happening again, don’t be afraid to get closer to your subject.

Tip #3 – A Subject in the Center of the Picture Isn’t Always a Good Idea

Remember that it isn’t always the best idea to stick the subject of your photograph in the center. When taking snorkeling photographs, remember that the background can sometimes be more important than the subject (to create a more artistic effect). Thus, don’t feel like you’re obligated to keep your subject at the center of the shot. Feel free to experiment until you find something you’re happy with.

Tip #4 – Create Depth

All pictures are two-dimensional, which means that it can be quite tricky to replicate the 3D feel in a 2D environment. A good trick would include certain items that attract the attention of the viewer such that they create an illusion of depth. This can be very difficult to pull off but, if done correctly, can massively impact the quality of your image.

Tip #5 – Convey Size

Conveying size in a picture can be as difficult as creating depth. If you feel like the most peculiar thing about your subject is its size, add another (preferably well-known) object to your picture so that the viewer can use this item as scale and gauge the size of your subject.

Always Be on the Lookout for New Patterns

A lot of people have been snorkeling in the past. Make sure that your pictures stand out from the rest by introducing unique items in the frame. This could range from a beautiful palette of colors to a new and interesting pattern. Just make your picture as beautiful and artistic as it can be so that it evokes some response from the viewer.

Dive Down

As mentioned in tips 4 and 5, pictures that feel three-dimensional are much better than the ones that feel like regular 2D images. Luckily, snorkeling makes it easy for underwater photographers to make their pictures look stunning. Try changing your perspective by diving down and getting closer to your subject than ever before. Get comfortable with snorkeling and swimming in general. However, if you feel like you cannot hold your breath underwater for too long, we recommend skipping diving down altogether. Remember, no shot is worth your life.

Take a Bunch of Pictures

Our final trick for taking better underwater pictures is to capture a lot of them. Mathematically speaking, this increases your probability of finding a picture you like when you’re reviewing them on your computer. However, remember to change your perspective and relation to the subject as it is a much better option than just taking the same picture of the same subject from the same spot.

CATEGORY: The knowledge Reef

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