Our 10 Best Tips for the Best Underwater Snorkelling Photography

by Mihai Pinzariu on January 21, 2020

Want to try your hand at underwater snorkelling photography? Awesome! We love seeing people’s snorkelling photos because it lets us see the huge variety of amazing underwater experiences and scenery that’s out there. 

Here are our 10 best tips to get you started on getting those Instagrammable shots that perfectly capture your snorkelling moments perfectly. 

1. Safety first

Before we get to the good stuff, we have to talk about safety. Safety is what lets you enjoy snorkelling time and time again, with no injuries and no worries.

So if you plan on taking some hot shots underwater, keep in mind the following:  

  • Don’t risk your safety by swimming into dangerous currents just to get a good photo,
  • Make sure you’re aware of the water conditions before you step out,
  • Take a buddy with you or tell someone where you plan to be.

Remember, there’s no point in taking beautiful photos if nobody gets to see them in the end! Safety first and always.

2. Get the right equipment

It might be tempting to spend the least amount of money on any old waterproof camera, but if you want amazing photos then you’ll have to invest in buying the right equipment. But that doesn’t mean forking out hundreds for a technical piece of equipment. Even just investing in a solid waterproof phone case can make all the difference (read point three).

Once you’ve got your equipment ready, make sure that you are familiar with how to use it before you head out in the water. Experiment with all the different functions and learn all the necessary movements you need to make. This will stop you from fiddling around in the water and missing that awesome shot!

3. Get a waterproof phone case

If you’re not at the stage where you can splurge on a top-of-the-range GoPro, don’t fret. You can use your smartphone to take underwater photos, too! Most smartphones take stunning high definition photos these days, so the most important element here is to purchase a solid waterproof phone case that won’t mess with the quality of your camera.

At NinjaShark we stock durable, lightweight, and crystal-clear waterproof phone cases that make snorkelling photography accessible to everyone.

4. Pay attention to the direction of the light

Water has a higher density than air, which means that light is absorbed differently. Because it eats up the entire spectrum of reds in a photograph, it’s easy to lose the brilliant colours of a coral reef when taking photos underwater. The more water and light that passes between your camera and the subject, the less colour will come out in your photo. Except blue of course!

To capture the true vivid colours that you see in real life, omit as much light as possible from your photo. You can do this by getting right up close to the corals or fish that you’re trying to photograph. The closer you are, the more colour will appear in your shot. Read our article about how light travels through water for more information on how this all works.  

At the same time, an important factor to note here is to keep your lens away from the sun - unless you want to capture sunrays in your pictures, which can be seriously beautiful! Keep the sun behind you when photographing underwater as the scene will naturally be backlit, just like having your own natural studio light.

5. Photograph in calm and clear water

Visibility can change quickly in the water, and that’s something you don’t want to mess with when taking photos. The more particles that are in the water, the less clear your shots will be. The water particles will basically appear like little snowflakes in your photos.

Be sure you step out on calm and clear days, when there is less movement in the water. If necessary, wait in between waves to get your shot. Patience is key to capturing those stunning snorkelling photos!

6. Shoot around midday

Midday is the best time for snorkelling photography as the sun is as its brightest and filtering through the water lighting up the colours within. This is the ‘golden hour’ of underwater photography.

You’ll get vivid colours, brilliant blues, and all the essential elements for an incredible photo. So you should make use of this awesome natural lighting when it’s there!

7. Master your buoyancy while snorkelling

If you want your photos to be clear and focused, you need to master your buoancy! Otherwise, it can be tricky to stay afloat and stop your camera from jerking around. Being able to stay still when floating gives you a steadier hold on your camera, giving you sharper and clearer photos. This is something you really want to work on before jumping in for your underwater photoshoot.

Being able to float calmly also means you’ll have more control over your body’s movements so that you can attract more sea life around you to get the shots you’re looking for. Sudden movements can scare fish around you and make it harder to get those good photos. Some tips to help you include:

  • Holding your camera close to your body,
  • Feeling the movements of the ocean and only going for the shot when the water is still,
  • Using a snorkel with a camera mount,
  • Avoid kicking your feet.

8. Get to know your subject

If you’re looking to photograph animals and underwater creatures, make sure you do your homework beforehand. Know what kind of creatures are lurking beneath the surface, how they behave in different circumstances, and how much of a risk they may pose to your safety. The last thing you want is to disrupt animal life in search of a hot shot.

9. Learn how to use underwater photography editing software

Most snorkelling photos you see have been processed with photo editing software to get those vibrant and colourful results. If you want professional, magazine-worthy images then you should also learn to use those softwares. They’re the secret ingredient that balance different elements to turn a great photo into a stunning one.

There are lots of different editing softwares you can use, from basic to professional depending on how well you know your way around a computer. The tools you’re looking for will be contrast, colour temperature, saturation, sharpness, and brightness. Play around with these functions until you get the perfect picture.

10. Don’t chase wildlife just to get a photo

Finally, don’t forget what got you into snorkelling in the first place. It’s your love of underwater wildlife and the beautiful corals. When photographing sea creatures, try to capture them in their natural environment and habitat. That means photographing what you see, and not chasing animals just to get them in your picture.

If that beautiful fish or whale floats past before you can take a snap - let it go. Don’t chase them and force the photo to happen. Wait patiently and you’ll get the chance to capture them again!

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