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Snorkeling Photography Tips

"Taking Pictures Underwater while Snorkeling - Tips for Stunning Results"

Combining snorkeling underwater photography and swimming is a challenge in many ways. Nonetheless, it is a thoroughly rewarding experience that even novices can enjoy. All you need is the right photographic equipment and a little bit of know-how.

You may be a complete first timer at taking the best underwater pictures while snorkeling. Or, you may be someone who is looking to accelerate and improve their own technique.

We hope this simple - yet informative - section on snorkeling and water photography tips will guide you forward. It aims to add some focus and a guiding light to your mission.

Snorkeling is an inexpensive relaxing pastime in most cases. It is an uplifting hobby that provides a way to see some of the underwater world. But, you are unlikely to see anything in fine detail below a few meters of depth. That is, unless the water is incredibly clear or you know how to skin dive.

You will need a basic snorkel set and the best underwater camera for snorkeling that you can afford. It is a short list of items to produce the best underwater photos. Try to acquire some rudimentary snorkel swimming skills - and a relative comfort zone in water.

This will help before you add the extra awkwardness of a camera into the equation. It will tip the balance in your favour. You can get some stunning results when you know how to take underwater pictures of snorkeling imagery.

Tips about Waterproof Sports Camera SolutionsSnorkeling Photography Tips; Topics Covered

Yes Tick iconWaterproof Sports Camera Solutions

Yes Tick iconDiving Down for Best Composition Underwater

Yes Tick iconDealing with Poor Water Clarity

Yes Tick iconUsing Natural Sunlight; When & How

Best Underwater Cameras for Snorkeling

You will need a camera. No great surprise there. But, it does not need to be the most expensive or the best underwater cameras for snorkeling on the market. In fact, you get some waterproof snorkeling camera. You might use an underwater housing for a non-waterproof camera that you already own. Even so, this tends to be an expensive method of engaging in snorkeling photography.

You can use some modern mobile phones nowadays. They guide you (rather nervously) how to take pictures underwater using a Dry Dock for example. But, take care to learn its maximum operating depth to avoid a costly mistake. A DSLR model is likely to get you the best imagery in the water. But you have the option of buying a fairly cheap waterproof snorkeling camera from as little as $100.

snorkeling tipUnder Water Photography Tip: It may surprise you to learn that most underwater sports cameras add buoyancy and drag. The majority of waterproof housings have positive buoyancy. Thus, they float if you let go or lose your camera.

Composition - Framing and Shooting Fish

Pattaya - Snorkeling with Turtles Affordable Underwater Snorkel Camera from 3,999 THB Swimmin with Sea Turtles

Choosing the best composition, and finding the exact moment to frame the photo, is not as easy as some photographic books and videos make it appear. Most snorkelers find it easier to swim facing forward and downwards at the same time - you could call this a 45’ angle.

The reason they swim this way is to keep the snorkel tube vertical and avoid unnecessary water entering the tube. Nonetheless, facing this direction may not always be the best angle for good photo composition and lighting.

The best underwater compositional shot is almost always done from below or at the same level as the subject. Shooting upwards towards the surface usually benefits from natural sunlight penetrating through the water.

Photographing marine creatures is often better done from the side - like wildlife photography above water. Shoot with a slight angle towards the viewfinder. Even so, we have seen some terrific results when the subject faced the camera front-on with an almost confrontational attitude.

Sometimes the only way to get the fish or subject suitably composed for the shot is by diving below sea level. Snorkelers often use a weight system to assist their submergence when they are wearing a buoyancy vest or wet suit.

Remember that doing so may create underwater pressure waves. That usually results in the creature darting away in the opposite direction.

Snorkeling Pics from the Surface

Snorkeling pictures taken only from the surface have limited composition. Often, they will lose valuable background imagery. We do not recommend feeding fish to gain a better front end shot but often it is the only way to avoid a tail end photo.

Note that feeding fish can be dangerous and illegal in some countries. The best method of photographing an underwater creature head on may be to anticipate its direction - and meet it by surprise. This option works quite well with larger fish, sea turtles, and rays.

Split Level Snorkeling Pictures

A new and growing trend in snorkeling photos is the split-water snorkeling images. It sounds more difficult than it really is. But you do need calm water, impeccable timing, and a steady hand to take the best split photography.

It is worth noting that split level photography usually makes the underwater image appear bigger than the above water subject. Even so, composing this challenging above and below the waterline shot makes you feel like a pro. It also improves your confidence.

Avoiding water drops on lens port is a common problem and especially in split shots. Of all the snorkeling tips and tricks for eliminating the problem of underwater housing water droplets, the one we see used most is mouth spit. A quick smear of saliva followed by a dunk in the water usually works well. A thin film of water coats the lens and often works better than some commercial defogs.

snorkeling tipTip for Post Processing: Many editing programs are free and easy to use. You can edit and improve your handy work by manipulating and adjusting the colour balance, and cropping or resizing.

snorkeling tipTip for In-water Composition: Use the rule of thirds. It is a guideline applying to the photographical position of an important subject.

Photographical composition rule of thirds' principalRule of Thirds

The rule of thirds principals suggest that you should compose the subjects on the imaginary lines which divide the image into nine equal parts by two equally spaced vertical lines and two equally spaced horizontal lines.

Diving Down for Photographs

Possibly the biggest challenge for taking photos underwater is diving down under water to take photographs. This is when certified scuba divers have a huge advantage over snorkelers.

If you have mastered surface skin diving you have more opportunities to photograph subjects closer. Even so, the time you have available to capture the creature's interesting behaviour is very limited. Staying deep is rarely an option.

The other challenge is being able to see clearly through your mask, the housing, and then finally the viewfinder tunnel. Sometimes snorkelers must accept that foggy snorkel masks and water droplets on the housing interfere with a perfect shot at the bottom of the ocean.

Can You Snorkel Underwater? Duck Dive Tips

Following these basic tips will help you make efficient duck dives without excessive splashing and energy-sapping movements. Remember that duck diving is best when you use the 'one up one down' method. This is another reason why snorkeling with a buddy is safer and more fun.

You should be floating stomach-down before you duck dive. Take a good breath, hold it, and bend from your waist head-down. You should be around 90 degrees and perpendicular to the surface water level.

Pull downwards with your arms and try to lift your legs and fins in a feet-up high vertical position to help push you under water. This 'Green Fins Friendly snorkeling' technique generally needs less energy. It also avoids damaging delicate marine life.

snorkeling tipTip for Stunning Backgrounds and Contrast: Find a spectacular background feature as a contrast. It could be a sea fan or a canyon. Then, wait for creatures to swim in view rather than chasing a fish around the reef. This is easier than trying to catch it in the perfect background.

Add some depth by leading the viewer's eyes from the foreground subject slowly to the background. For example, take a shot inside a huge barrel sponge. Or, photograph small animals near to larger creatures to show size comparisons.

Dealing with Water Clarity

Clear water is directly related to stunning quality post processing underwater photographs. You can’t wave a magic wand and instantly turn murky water into crystal clear underwater visibility. So how do you deal with less than perfect water clarity for acceptable image quality?

Unfortunately our helpful photo tips while snorkeling do not include magic cures. Nonetheless, try to minimize your distance from the subject for clearer underwater photography. This is especially pertinent when the water is cloudy or has a lot of sediment.

Try to get as close as possible before you click the shoot button. Another handy tip is to use a wide angle lens in conditions with less than clear water.

snorkeling tipTip for Sharper Snorkeling Images: Try to avoid overusing the zoom function. Getting closer and reducing the volume of water between you and the subject usually reduces the amount of backscatter. Thus, less gets reflected off suspended particles in the water (e.g. plankton and sediment).

Natural Underwater Lighting

snorkeling tipSurprising Tip: Be aware that your shadow can ruin a good shot. It can interrupt the natural underwater light source.

Natural lighting under water comes from sunlight. The colour spectrum is at its fullest near the surface. Even so, red colours disappear after a few meters of depth, followed by orange, yellow, green, and blue.

Thus, as you would learn in our PADI Snorkeling Photographer Certification, the best hours of the day to take pictures underwater is midday. This is when the sun is directly above the water. You should also accept that surface waves cause diffraction. This can scatter the light in many different directions.

You do not need underwater lighting for taking pictures while snorkelling. But, you can increase the ambient light underwater using a strobe or the camera flash feature. This is especially useful if it is a cloudy day or you are in choppy seas.

snorkeling tipTip for Shallow Water Photography: Use bright sunlight for illumination instead of a flash or strobes in shallow water. Powerful strobes are likely to increase backscatter. Artificial lighting is rarely needed by snorkelers photographing at midday when the sun is the brightest.

snorkeling tipTip - Snorkeling underwater photography is a fun challenge. So, shoot liberally and delete liberally.

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