Taking Better Underwater Photos

Try these tips to capture great shots of sea life.

Sea turtle
When taking photos in water deeper than 25 feet, you need a camera with a red lens filter.Robin Wright

As we've sailed from the Bahamas down through many of the eastern Caribbean islands, we've spent countless happy hours snorkeling and diving. I always take my camera, and I don't want just mediocre images. I want amazing images. Here are a few things I've learned along the way:

When taking photos in water deeper than 25 feet, you need a camera with a red lens filter. Otherwise, everything just looks blue. My first camera didn't have one, so I upgraded to a SeaLife Micro 2.0 with a built-in filter. It's simple to switch between snorkel and dive modes, and my photos and videos are now in living color.

Shallow dives on bright, sunny days in relatively clear water are optimum for taking photos, and if you want sharper images, you can’t be moving. I’ve found that when I slow down, the fish seem to move slower as well. Take some photos closer, then back up and change the angle. SeaLife recommends 12 to 48 inches for best results. Learn to control your buoyancy, and hold your breath to steady your hands. Move as little as possible so you don’t stir up the sand and cloud the water.

Taking a fish photo is much like taking a human portrait. Do you really want the back of a person’s head? A great fish photo captures its face and side profile showing all its wonderful colors and intricate designs, not its tail bidding you farewell.

Tiny subjects are my passion, and they're usually found in shallow water. Little creatures like to hide out on mooring blocks or in tangled ropes. Recently, I photographed a baby trumpet, a baby marbled grouper, and a baby lobster all on the same rope. I use the SeaLife Micro Lens (SL570) for these close-up shots. It easily locks in place with a twist, and can be attached underwater.

Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach's Reef Fish Identification and Reef Creature Identification guides help me properly recognize reef life and inspire me to locate new things underwater. After reading that spotted cleaner shrimp, sun anemone shrimp and squat anemone shrimp all live in association with various anemones, I found all three with ease.

In addition to becoming a hobby that I am passionate about, taking photos has definitely deepened my appreciation for all life underwater.