In macro and super macro underwater photography the background you choose to place your subject matter on is vital to the overall success of a picture.
So often, it’s a case of finding yourself the most suitable and interesting background, rather than just finding a subject and taking pot luck as to the background it might just happen to be living upon.
So often I see folk getting excited about a photo opportunity, and being blinded by the actual primary subject itself, i.e. they find a rare creature they’ve never seen before and so just take their shot.
Nothing wrong with this per se but it would make for much more artfully composed shots if they took a little more time, and found both subject and background material to record.
In muck diving regions of the world the creatures often live in the most drab and apparently colourless environments, however with a little more care it is possible to find great subjects living on better backgrounds than the dark sand.
Here I’ve found a rotting leaf underneath a jetty, which these two gobies have set up home in, and so it was worth spending a good chunk of the dive getting an interesting placement of goby against curled leaf. This has raised them up from the bottom itself, and I have decided to use a very wide aperture to throw the background out of focus other than their eyes and the leading edge of the leaf. As they are a contrasting colour they stand out against the curved surface of the leaf.
I spent a lot of time waiting for them to occupy the best position and I took quite a few shots before settling on this one, where both sets of eyes are kept in focus.
Of course it’s a big no no to in any way coax or cajole the creatures into position so your just got to be patient, if you are, then it will eventually pay off for you.

 

These two Lemon Gobies shot in Ambon, were living on a rotting leaf underneath a jetty. It provided cover and no doubt food.For me though it was a much better background than the drab sand in the vicinity.
These two Lemon Gobies shot in Ambon, were living on a rotting leaf underneath a jetty. It provided cover and no doubt food.For me though it was a much better background than the drab sand in the immediate vicinity.

 

 

For this next shot also taken in Indonesia this time though in Lembeh, I’ve used a little bit of prior knowledge to actively seek out a Hypselodoris nudibranch, that are often sporting goby hangers on.
Its purple body and white fringed skirt are the perfect back drop. So I just framed using  the time honoured, method of rule of thirds, alongside a dose of diagonals and some negative space, rather than show both creatures in their entirety I chose to crop in tight for more impact.
I’ve also strobe lit this slightly from the back, to lend the subjects an illuminated from within effect.

 

 

 

 

This small goby was hitching a ride on a very flamboyantly coloured nudibranch in Lembeh, which provided the perfect colourful backdrop.
This small goby was hitching a ride on a very flamboyantly coloured nudibranch in Lembeh, which provided the perfect colourful backdrop.

 

 

So next time you’re shooting macro or even closer, firstly try and find a tidy, colourful or neat background that your subject is living upon, this will make your macro shots all the more interesting for doing it.

If you’d like to join me for an underwater photography workshop, then I carry them out all over the world please check my trips page, its great fun and educational too.

Duxy