In underwater photography, you can capture various scenes bathed in blue simply by changing how you light the photo. In this article, let's take a take a look at how to achieve a lovely underwater shot such as the one below, where everything including the fish is tinged in lovely shades of aquamarine, by looking at the trial and error process. (Report by: Yasuaki Kagii)
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF35mm f/1.4L USM/ FL: 35mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.5, 1/200 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto/ Picture Style: Landscape
[Good example] At the shooting location, I selected a shallow sandy area where the water appeared pale blue due to the sunlight, and used the flash at low intensity.
Key 1: Lighting – Capture the fish with direct light
If you are trying to recreate the colour seen by the naked eye in the vast expanse underwater, I would recommend making good use of direct light from the sun. This is because light from a flash only recreates some of the colours that you observe.
You’ll also want to aim for shallow water, where the light of the sun shines through.
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF17-40mm f/4L USM/ FL: 17mm/ Manual exposure (f/8.0, 1/40sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto/ Picture Style: Landscape
[Negative example] The areas underwater where sunlight doesn’t reach do not appear blue.
Key 2: Shooting location – Sandy areas reflect light. Make use of them.
In the sea off the southern coast of Japan, there are areas where it is brighter underwater than on land due to the sunlight reflected off the sandy seabed, so you might want to take advantage of that. The sandy seabed reflects sunlight, which allows you to reproduce a lovely shade of blue in your images, so try to shoot in such areas where possible.
EOS 5D/ EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM/ FL: 100mm/ Manual exposure (f/7.1, 1/13 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight/ Picture Style: Landscape
[Negative example] In a rocky area, the water appears a deep blue.
Key 3: Shooting functions – Use Picture Style for a vivid depiction of the sea
Set the Picture Style to “Landscape” when you want to vividly express the blue of the sea. While the resulting colour of the sea in your photos might appear somewhat bluer than observed, this provides greater contrast and a three-dimensional effect, which makes the fish stand out in the water.
EOS 5D Mark III/ FL: 35mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.5, 1/200 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto/ Picture Style: Landscape
[Negative example] The blue appears pale when the Picture Style is set to “Standard”.
Key 4: Equipment - Use the flash to make your subjects appear more three-dimensional
Large creatures such as whale sharks and dolphins are usually photographed using only sunlight. However, in deeper water, this would make your photos will appear flat. To make subjects such as fish and coral look more three dimensional, use a flash.
For the photo at the beginning of this article, I used a flash that was lower in intensity so that the colour was not lost.
EOS 5D Mark III/ FL: 35mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.5, 1/160 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto/ Picture Style: Landscape
[Negative example] The photo appears flat without the flash.
Receive the latest updates on photography news, tips and tricks by signing up with us!
EOS 5D Mark III (Body)
EOS 5D Mark III (Body) has been discontinued. EOS 5D Mark IV is now available.
Click here for more details (will be directed to EOS 5D Mark IV page)
Digital Camera Magazine
A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation
Born 1971 in Hyogo Prefecture, Kagii is an underwater photographer, and was apprentice to the underwater photographer, Katsutoshi Ito, during his university days. He became a freelance photographer in 1998, and specializes in a photography style that lets him get close to the natural rhythm of living creatures so as not to stress them where possible.
Kagii has been a representative of Clé et Photos since 2013.