Getting Started

The best way to achieve success and capture great macro photos is to let your flashgun light the entire frame. In other words — if the flash fails to trigger the picture will turn out black.

• Use a 50 mm or 60 mm macro lens or a digital compact camera.

• Turn your camera from Auto to Manual exposure mode (including digital compacts if possible).

• Select a shutter speed of about 250th second.

• Select an aperture of f22 or f16 with an SLR and f8or f7 if using a compact digital.

My reasons for these settings are as follows.

• Remember that with depth the colour of subjects rapidly diminishes. (That's why we need flash — to restore colour.)

• Macro lenses provide very little depth of field (D of F) when focused close so you need to maximise it as much as possible to achieve sharp focus throughout the frame.

• Small apertures (high numbers) enable this but the trade-off is light.

• Using small apertures provides little light — that's where your flash comes in. The flash, whether it's built-in or off-camera, illuminates the subject.

• A low ISO achieves the best quality, reducing digital noise to a minimum.

• 1/250th second is a fast enough shutter speed to prevent shutter shake.

• Position your flashgun above and over the camera housing pointing out.

• Make every effort to get as low as possible and position yourself below the subject and shoot upwards towards the water background.

• Whenever possible choose those subjects which you can approach from below and shoot upwards.

• Get close, focus your lens, compose the subject and take the picture.

Using this method you will have the best possible chance of achieving sharp focus. The position of your flashgun will minimise backscatter and light the subject evenly. Your low angle of view will enhance the impact of the subject and if you are able to find a subject with blue water behind — this will create a contrasting background and make your subject pop!

'Why not use Automatic mode?' you might ask.

Automatic does not know you are underwater;it thinks you are in a dark place so it will try its best to give you as much ambient (natural) light as possible.

Automatic will reduce the shutter speed to provide more light, which may result in shutter shake and a blurry photo if the speed is too slow and will reduce the f-number, which may also result in an out of focus picture if the D of F is too shallow.

You can eliminate all of these potential problems by using manual exposure mode and letting your flashgun do all the work.

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