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Macro Tips Underwater Photography Beginners Tutorial

Getting Up Close With Macro Underwater Photography

"The term photo-macrograph was proposed in 1899 by W. H. Walmsley for close-up images with less than 10 diameters magnification, to distinguish from true photo-micrographs"

Macro Photography is Extreme Close-up Photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size. You can shoot so much macro life underwater from nudi branch, to shrimps, small fish, crabs, flowers, even the corals themselves, also get creative with macro by taking close ups of larger objects creating almost abstract style pictures using close ups on parts of the larger subject.

Choosing a Suitable Macro Photography Subject

Find the subjects starts with researching what and where to find good subjects. Check out other macro style photographs and see what subjects are featured in them, where they were taken, what depth, what kind of dive site were they found. Talk to other  underwater Macro Photography specialists for suggestions and answers. (Hint from us... Nudibranch! )

Choose your Macro Photographs Moments Well

For the best underwater macro photography results, take close attention to the moment and the presentation of it. Watch your subject, what it is doing, is it displaying a certain behavior? Does it move in its position, yawn, have small shrimp cleaning it?Look at whats around your subject, is it carrying eggs?  Try to imagine what the best possible moment to capture will be. Sometimes the subject will be an amazing slow-moving nudibranch all by itself. You may think there is no good or bad moment for this subject. But even for a nudibranch, there is often a great moment, perhaps when its crawling over a mound where you can get the camera below or level and capture it head on level with its mantle?

Composition, Lighting, and Focus

Composition Tips

I always try to begin by getting as low and close to the subject as I can, try to imagine different compositions and angles, like head on looking straight down face to face with a nudibranch or fish, fill the frame either with your subject or with near by interesting objects be it the coral or colorful plant for example.

From the side perhaps this angle backdrops your subject against a different color background, highlighting it? shoot from underneath it, maybe your subject has details usually hidden from other angles or this angle creates a dramatic lighting effect? Sometimes the best composition can really take patience and time to make work. Try a few different shots out, play around and find out what works for you!
Macro photography shrimp get low and close.. then closer!

Macro photography shrimp get low and close.. then closer!

Underwater Macro Photography Light Position

Based on the color and texture of your macro subject and water visibility, think about where to position your light source from. Do you want to light it from the front, side lighting, back lighting, top lighting... If you are using a strobe light, do you have worry about backscatter? Do I need to position my strobes for a black background? We always recommend diffusers on, giving the light a softer look which we find better for underwater macro photography. If you're using a flash light, consider using a video light which tends to have a wide even spread of light with no hot spots but if you're using a regular dive light consider putting a diffuser on it or position it and point it behind the camera diffuser if it has one?

Backgrounds for Underwater Macro Photography

What color do you want from your background composition?

Do I want it blacked out, blue or maybe green?

Would you like it in focus or blurred?

Is there a colorful object nearby that I can get into the background?

Always try to re-position yourself for a better background rather than moving a subject to enhance my shot, but that said a small dive stick can be used carefully to encourage small shrimps to change position for example but DO NOT not risk injuring a subject or causing it to flee its habitat just to get the shot you want.
Macro photography crab top lighting

Macro photography crab top lighting

Underwater Macro Photography Focus

Just like in regular photography of live subjects, focus on the eyes or in macro photography subjects like Nudibranch, the rhinophores. Lock focus on them. If your camera has an adjustable movable focal point, use your arrow keys to move your focus point to where you want it, like to the left side or the right perhaps. You may need to do this quite a bit if your subject moves or the composition changes. This moves away from a bull’s-eye composition and sometimes makes for a more interesting shot. Depending on the subject and how easily my camera is focusing, I will switch between C (continuous) and S (single-shot) focus modes. If your camera allows it, shooting supermacro is always best but can take longer to focus, I find most camera I use focus faster when i use my video light to light my shot.

Depth of field in Underwater Macro Photography

This is related to the background and how much of it you want to be in or out of focus in your picture. Do you want the background to the crisp or blurred? Is the ambient light so strong I need a small aperture to help block it out?

Choosing the right f-stop to use can be tricky. P mode will set this automatically for you whilst allowing you to manually control other aspects such as white balance, exposure and such but always review the f-stop and depth of field to see if its giving you what you want. Remember - there is no best F-stop for macro photography. A large aperture (small f-stop) will blur the background basically giving you a short plane length in focus where as a small aperture will bring more of the background into focus extending the plane and allowing for crisp focus from front to end of your macro subject should you desire it..
Macro Photography Nudi Front Focus Small F-stop

Macro Photography Nudi Front Focus Small F-stop

Have You Tried Macro Underwater Photography?
Got any Tips Of Your Own To Share? Comment Below

Andrew Jennings
Andrew Jennings
You host and creator of underwater clicks.