Underwater photography

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Basically, there are two types of underwater photography: submersed camera photography and non-submersed camera photography. A scuba diver bringing her camera down to snap pictures of corals is an example of submerged camera photography, while an aquarist photographing her fish through the aquarium glass is an example of non-submerged camera photography since only the fish are underwater, not the camera.

If you want to be able to submerse your camera, you need an underwater camera or underwater housing for your ordinary camera. If you decide to purchase an underwater camera, keep in mind that the cheap variant that you can find in tourists shops and similar tend to take low quality pictures. This type of camera can be great if all you want is a few snapshots from your scuba diving trip, but don’t expect sharp, high-quality pictures. Also, these cameras are typically single-use cameras; you will have to turn the entire camera in to have your 24 or 30 pictures developed. Last but not least, they don’t handle pressure well so you need to stay fairly close to the surface (typically 5-10 meters) to prevent your camera from being ruined by the increasing water pressure.

If you decide to get an underwater house for your existing camera, it is important to get one that fits your particular camera model. The camera housing needs to fit the camera perfectly. Also, make sure that the camera housing is sturdy enough to handle the type of pressure you’re planning on exposing it to. You can get more information by contacting the manufacturer of your camera; most brands have their own line of underwater houses.

When taking underwater pictures, regardless if you submerse your camera or not, you need to take into account that light travels differently in water than in air. Since water is more difficult for the light to penetrate, you may have to use extra lighting to take good pictures. Even an aquarium that is just 50 cm deep may need special lighting for the pictures to turn out right. If you’re a scuba diver, you are probably already familiar with how dark it gets the further down you go and how it affects the colours. Even at a dept of just a few meters your pictures may start looking bluish since the light needed to produce red colours have been filtered out by the water. Bluish underwater pictures can still look great, but they’re not ideal if you want to depict the “true” colours of the underwater landscape, e.g. if you want to show how a certain marine fish would look in an aquarium.

The water quality will have a tremendous impact on the overall appearance of your pictures, so plan in advance. If you’re going scuba diving, ask a local dive shop or similar about the best time to go. Visibility is for instance known to decrease dramatically after heavy rains since so much debris gets flushed out into the ocean from rivers and streams. There may also be parts of the year when algae blooms make the water much murkier than normal. If you’re taking aquarium pictures, clean the aquarium in advance to give any silt time to settle. Make a substantial water change, vacuum the substrate, remove debris, and clean both sides of the aquarium glass. Sometimes algae growing on the glass will look great in a picture and give the entire setting a more lush and natural vibe, but in other situations you need to get rid of it in advance. Don’t forget that the camera can pick up tiny speckles of algae and dirt on the glass that your naked eye may miss or simply disregard.


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