5 considerations for a truly great underwater photograph

New editor at Amanzi Mag and new contributor underwater photography specialist Fiona Ayerst, gives us 5 considerations for a truly great underwater photograph as well as and how to quickly improve your underwater photos:

One of my students said to me that he understood the technical elements of underwater photography, but was grappling with how to give feeling to his underwater shots. I panicked! Had I failed in my quest to teach? When I got past my egotistical reaction and really thought about it, I realised that he is exactly at the place I got stuck in for many years.  When you begin to think deeply into- the elusive quest of all great artists- what is it that makes an underwater photograph truly great- then you most probably already have the basics covered. If not, then start with the basics and get your technique perfect. If you are at the right stage then – How do you give a photo that “wow” factor?

a manta ray appears to float effortlessly above crescent tail big eyes in Mozambique and it's a photo that gets people going wow

a manta ray appears to float effortlessly above crescent tail big eyes in Mozambique and it’s a photo that gets people going wow

 5 considerations for a truly great underwater photograph

Here are five important factors to consider once you have the technical skills down pat!

  1. Visualisation: Always visualise what it is you are going to shoot. In this way you work out what you want to say in and with your image before you have even taken it.
Decide what you want your subject to be doing and then take the photo how you planned it to look

Decide what you want your subject to be doing and then take the photo how you planned it to look

  1. Peak of the action: Know what the subject is going to do next and anticipate what will happen so that you get the shot just at the correct time. Get to know how your subjects behave.
is where all elements come together and the timing is just right to take the shot. photo credit Kim Vu

is where all elements come together and the timing is just right to take the shot. photo credit Kim Vu

  1. Adjust your mindset: If you are really serious about getting that “wow” factor in your shots then you have to live; eat and breathe underwater photography for the entire time span that you are shooting. Try to set aside a week or two to travel to a place famed for it’s sea life and guides and then settle into an introspective way of life that is geared to helping you achieve your quest. You may have to be selfish for a short while.
live and breathe underwater photography and get onto courses for the type of underwater photography you are interested in. photo credit Fiona Ayerst

live and breathe underwater photography and get onto courses for the type of underwater photography you are interested in. photo credit Fiona Ayerst

  1. Have careful regard to your composition: “Bulls-eye” shots rarely work and there are some basic rules, such as the rule of thirds, which, if applied- can take your photos from boring to “wow” in a very short time. The photos that stand out are the ones in which compositional elements add to the picture in such a way as to have the viewer believe he is part of the scene and that he truly understands the subject in that split second.
use the rule of thirds where you can in underwater photography. photo credit Cullen Welch

use the rule of thirds where you can in underwater photography. photo credit Cullen Welch

  1. Look for unusual angles to ordinary subjects: few shots that look good in fish identification books have any artistic merit.
using perspective distortion with fish eye lenses works perfectly in underwater photography where there are no straight lines. Photo credit Fiona Ayerst

using perspective distortion with fish eye lenses works perfectly in underwater photography where there are no straight lines. Photo credit Fiona Ayerst

 

Last but not least- get out there; live your dream and have fun taking your shots.

Fiona Ayerst

2 February 2015

Author: Fiona Ayerst

underwater photo-journalist

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