Lighting for Underwater Photography

Lighting underwater photographs is a huge topic. Here, I will discuss the techniques of:

• Natural/ambient light from the sun.

• Artificial light from our flashguns.

• A combination of each when we choose to blend them both together, a technique which is often referred to as 'balanced light fill in flash'.

But how do we decide how much light to use and in what circumstances?

• Do certain subjects work better with a certain quality of light?

• How can we determine this?

• Where do we place our flashgun?

• How many flashguns should we use, one or two?

One thing is certain — there is no right or wrong way of using light underwater. But by taking notice of the light conditions for any particular photo dive and asking yourself questions on which types of light you may prefer, you can begin to enable options for your own style and taste instead of being a slave to both your camera and flashgun.

It's time to take control. Turn to Chapter 6 to learn how.

Twelve photographers visited this shallow cave system at 'Jackfish Alley' in the northern Red Sea over a period of 48 hours. The objective was to shoot the sunbeams at midday. Nine used flash and without exception — all were disappointed with their results. I and two others were the exception. We switched our flashguns to 'off', worked the available light and as a result the other two both went on to win photo competitions some time later. Fig. 5.24 is my result. With flashguns 'off' I spent five minutes working this particular angle. It's been nicknamed 'Celestial Light' and I used my Nikon D300 with natural light, f4.8 at 1/20th sec, ISO 800, 10 mm end of my Tokina 10 17 mm fisheye zoom. During the post dive debrief, we discussed the alternative lighting approaches and the entire emphasis of our discussions was 'Why three of us had decided to use natural light'. My two colleagues declared 'instinct, intuition, and gut feeling!' But I was rock solid certain that my reason was the natural appearance of the shafts of light, which had inspired me. When light looks great to our eyes — why on earth do we change that appearance and use flash? It's the natural light, which inspired us in the first instance! But it's so common to overlook this fact and continuing shooting flash! It's a habit but I hope after you have read Chapter 6 'All About Lighting' you will learn to consider other alternative options.

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