I spend a lot of time reassuring people who think they want to come on a photo trip, but are understandably intimidated by their own perceptions of what this entails.
It’s not how big it is but what you do with it that counts.
What I mean by this is that they think that they will be the least able on the trip or that the camera kit they own won’t pass muster or isn’t sophisticated enough for proper underwater photography, whatever that means. Nowadays everything from a GoPro upwards is an underwater camera, and if you’re taking pictures with it then you are an underwater photographer.
This of course isn’t helped by people reinforcing their intended audiences worries by saying things like “underwater photography equipment is very complicated” or “underwater photography is a very difficult subject” something I read recently in a blog, whilst researching stuff on the internet. Which was a shame because the blog on the whole I enjoyed.
This does nothing to entice people into our great hobby.
And all it may do is enforce the erroneous idea that underwater photography is a difficult to understand subject. And I have found that this sort of attitude to be very off putting for newbie divers and interested potential underwater photographers.
Take It Easy on yourself
I have spent the last five years showing people that the basic principles of underwater photography are actually very easy, and that, whilst it’s undeniably useful to understand apertures, shutter speeds, ISO’s etc, it’s not vital to getting great pictures underwater.
No more than it is to be an IT expert to use a computer program.
So i’m simply going to point at a couple of early blogs and show a few pictures.
These pictures have all been taken on old compact cameras, with not even an external strobe.
My methodology with teaching first time underwater shooters, maybe using a compact camera has always been the same.
And that is to simply “Get Close” preferably with a wide-angle lens. Why should you buy and use a wide-angle lens? Click here and find out. In short your pictures will be more colourful and exhibit better contrast and clarity, that’s why.
Dead simple, no specialist knowledge needed.
Step by Step
The next thing I teach is a function that lots of cameras have and that’s Custom or Manual White Balance. Sounds complex?
It’s often as easy as pressing one dedicated button on your camera, and then all the colours spring into view. Admittedly some cameras it might involve a few more button presses, but the reward for pressing those buttons is colour back in your shots.
Easy does it
I deliberately follow this progression with most first time shooters, and the reason for that is, that if you are on a nice colourful coral reef, which if you’re on a photo workshop you probably are, then it’s an almost guaranteed way for people to get confidence boosting pictures from the off with little or no recourse to learning more advanced techniques.
I have found that when people already have some nice colourful, successful shots in the bag, then they are much more amenable to carrying on learning and the learning curve seems somewhat less steep and easier to manage.
Don’t give up you can do it
I have come across people on trips, who have given up on underwater photography because they’ve been given bad advice at the beginning or someone has insisted that the only way to get good shots is to use an external strobe or flash.
Strobes or flashes are very useful and I use them all the time but, are simply not necessary for a lot of well lit coral reef diving, and I’ve found that if you are trying to woo people over on a stand of less complexity then burdening them straightaway with strobes is a sure fire way to get them to give up. Far better that they get some nice shots first with minimal equipment, and then come to a natural conclusion as to when they are ready themselves to make the jump into using more kit.
It’s because of this, in combination, with the fun and camaraderie on my workshops, that we have a quickly growing gang of regulars, that love the ego-less non competitive environment I try and encourage.
Most of these people have started with baby steps and progressed at their own pace.
Some have taken longer than others to grasp it, but for me the reward when they get it is all the more sweet.
So I’m going to leave my Sunday evening rant there and forward you some links to earlier blogs that start off with the easy stuff, and then progress to the more complex when you feel ready.
And you can now download any of these blogs as a PDF to put on your tablet or print out.
Available Light Underwater Photography (in four parts the links to the others are at the end of each part)