In the tropical waters of Ko Lanta there are a few standard basic camera settings which the Liquid Lense professional photographers almost always use, and teach students:
- ISO – as low as possible 80/100 is ideal
- Exposure Compensation: Our pros generally lower this slightly – 1/3 etc.
It is easy to increase exposure in editing programs, whereas a blown-out or over-exposed picture can rarely be saved or altered.
Where possible we suggest photographers use Custom/Evaluate White Balance in the shallows (to about 8-10 metres) so as to capture the real colour of our subjects and replace those colours being lost at depth through the water column. This needs to be re-set approximately every 2 – 3 metres. Remember never to use Flash/strobe whilst in custom setting (or you end up with a very red photo). Our photographers use sand, their hand or a white slate for evaluating WB. (For more information on the importance of white balance please read our article A Beginner’s Guide to Underwater White Balance or consider taking the Liquid Lense Go Photo Course)
At most other depths underwater we choose to use Fluorescent setting (which helps the blues pop), and is ideal when using flash or strobe underwater.
If you are using the P or program mode on your camera then the camera is choosing the shutter speed and aperture for you – if you would like to learn more about more advanced manual camera settings then you should consider taking a Liquid Lense Skills Polish (if you already take underwater photos) or the Underwater Photo or Photo Plus Course.
Other Handy Hints:
We all turn off our cameras between shots, both to conserve the battery life, and help keep the camera as cool and therefore limit condensation build up in the housing.
Keep your camera in the shade or rinse bucket when not diving – the change of temperatures here can cause fogging quite quickly – ensure you use silicone sachets wherever possible, and try to limit the length of time you are holding it at the surface while gearing up, jumping in etc.
- Remember to keep the sun behind you wherever possible (unless you are going for a silhouette shot)
- Remember to use the rule of thirds and shoot slightly upwards for great composition. Try to have blue, black or open water behind your subjects to make them pop.
- Try not to take photo whilst you are breathing out, unless you want a photo of bubbles!
- Still subjects will always be you easiest when starting out and can make fabulous photos – moray eels, lionfish, scorpionfish are all very photogenic and make great subjects. For faster moving subjects we would again suggest considering the Liquid Lense Underwater Photo Plus Course to learn about faster shutter speeds and the advantages of using a strobe to help freeze motion.
- Never zoom – this will just highlight the particulates in the water. You can however zoom if you are in macro mode, since the water column is so small anyway.