Underwater macro photography

Underwater macro photography brings nature’s patterns and colors to life. Mesmerizing details captured by a dedicated 1:1 macro lens reveal textures we would not otherwise have been aware of. Both SLR and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras offer some incredible macro options to add to your underwater weapons.

Underwater macro photography

1. What is a macro lens?

A macro lens can focus close to the subject and usually fills the frame at a 1:1 real size scale. The longer the lens (such as 100/105mm), the greater the working distance provided, which is very useful when shooting timid animals.

2. Choose a macro lens

It’s important to choose your lens. This may be more important than choosing your camera. I always say images are only as good as what the camera “sees,” so you certainly don’t want poor-quality lenses. So how do choose a lens?

Most are brand-specific. Lens bayonet adapters are available for interchangeable lens/camera body manufacturers, but combinations equipped with underwater photography may be limited. Be sure to check that pairing the shell with the desired port is provided for your particular setup. If you already own a camera, your options are narrow.

3. Common macro terms

scuba diving

Prime lens: a lens with a fixed focal length. Prime lenses are known to be sharper than zoom lenses. (For example, a 100mm prime lens is the opposite of an 18-55mm zoom lens).

Full frame: Referring to the size of the camera sensor, the full-frame sensor is equivalent to 35 mm film or usually 36 mm x 24 mm.

APS-C: “Advanced Photo System Classic” (as opposed to panorama or HD) refers to the size of the camera sensor. Commonly referred to as a crop sensor, it is usually 22mm x15mm.

Full-frame vs APS-C Format Lens design: Lenses designed for full-frame sensors can be used with smaller APS-C cameras because their sensors only see the center of the “cropped” image. However, APS-C lenses produce a halo at the edges because the “field of view” of the full-frame sensor is much larger than the cropped APS-C.

Mirrorless: A digital camera that, like all DSLR and SLR single-lens reflex cameras, does not have a mirror inside the body. The mirrorless installation on the camera is different from the DSLR.

Wet lens: a lens that can be removed underwater. The wet lens is attached to the outside part of the underwater housing and does not interfere with the housing’s ability to protect the camera inside.

Diopter: A unit of measurement used to describe the intensity of a close-up shot.

Close-up lens: A second lens or filter in addition to the main lens that magnifies the subject.

1:1 magnification: true macro/life size

Chromatic aberration: An unwanted hue at the pixel level, most commonly found in high-contrast areas of an image. Sometimes it is only visible when examining the fine details of the image, but it can become blurred from a distance.

4. Underwater macro photography equipment

Underwater macro photography captures animals underwater

(1) Macro lens

If you’re shooting with a small camera, you don’t have to worry about switching lenses because your lens is fixed. For DSLR photographers with cropped sensors, you can use a 60mm or 100/105mm macro lens. The 60mm macro lens is easier to use.

(2) Flash/video light

Although you can use the built-in flash for macro shots, I highly recommend using a flash or two. One is fine, but two is better because it’s easier to reduce backscatter and reduce shadows. Some people also decide to switch to a powerful video light because it allows them to use auto-exposure mode. The downside is that it limits how close you can get to the subject, and you may get a camera shake blur.

(3) Wet diopter

To advance your underwater macro photography, I consider a wet diopter, also known as a wet microlens, to be essential for underwater photography. They are usually screwed at the end of the port, although some underwater houses have clamshell adapters and bayonet adapters available. Diopters come in different strengths, though stronger is not always better, as stronger diopters are harder to use. If I started, I’d get a +5, +6, or +7 wet diopter.

(4) Theme – Choose a macro theme

Taking great underwater macro photographs starts with research. Where can I find good subjects? What dive sites and at what depth? Do I need a wet micro lens? Search the Internet and ask divers who have been there before. If possible, use a guide that specializes in macro disciplines. Next, look at the photos taken at these locations. Which subjects produce the best photos, which backgrounds and compositions look best, and what you can improve on. Try pre-visualizing the picture you want to take, imagining how the light should fall on your subject and whether the background is blurred or in focus. Based on your research and imagined lenses, decide which or which lenses to use in your dive.

5. Composition, lighting, and focus on underwater macro photography

Underwater macro photography

Composition: I try to lower and evaluate different compositions, such as front, fill the frame, diagonal, shoot from below. Sometimes, the best work can really make a difference. Try several different combinations.

Stroboscopic position: I will consider my stroboscopic position depending on the texture of the subject and the visibility of the water. Do I need front lighting, side lighting, backlighting? Do I need to worry about backstabbing? Do I need a flash for a black background? I almost always turn on my diffuser to make the light look softer and look better in macro photography.

Background: What color do I want my background to be? Do I want black, blue, green? Is it focus or blur? Are there any colored objects nearby that can enter the background? Do I need to carefully move the theme to a better background and can do it without emphasizing the theme?

Focus: You usually want to focus your attention on the eyes. Lock in focus and reframe. If your camera has a removable focus, use the arrow keys to move the focus to where you want it. You may need to do this often if the composition changes or the subject moves. This will also help avoid bullseye compositions. I’ll switch between C (continuous) and S (single shot) focus modes depending on how easy it is to focus on the subject and the camera. C mode allowed me to shoot without the camera “locking” focus, which can be difficult when shooting super macro shots.

Exposure: You need to check the histogram to ensure proper exposure. With converters, you almost always have proper exposure, but sometimes you need to adjust the converters up or down. If you are shooting manually, you will adjust to high or low-frequency flash power. The converter is a great help for macro shots. Most of the time, you really don’t need to worry about exposure.

Depth of field: This depends on the background. How much freedom do I need or want for the composition I choose? Do I want to blur the background? Is the ambient light so intense that I need a small aperture to help block it out? All of these factors will help determine the correct aperture for the shot.

Underwater macro photography

6. Underwater etiquette for macro shooting

If other photographers are taking pictures of your intended subject, be careful not to get too close, as this will cause sediment to flow towards them. Keep your distance and observe the direction of water flow and silt. Try to get on their radar and let them know you’re interested. See if there are other subjects nearby that you can shoot while you wait for them.

Or while you are photographing the subject, if there are other photographers waiting for the subject, please find that photographer. Before leaving the scene, show them the exact location of the subject.


Is macro photography difficult?

Macro photography is a difficult genre — you’re pushing up against the physical limits of depth of field, diffraction, and motion blur. Naturally, focusing on macro photography isn’t an easy task, but it’s a crucial one.

What is the disadvantage of using a macro filter?

What is the disadvantage of using a macro filter? They can degrade the quality of the image. Insects are best photographed at midday when the insects are more active. Hands are one aspect of a person that can create beautiful and highly personal photographs.

What makes a good macro lens?

A macro lens is a special type of camera lens that has the ability to work with very short focusing distances, taking sharp images of very small subjects. A true macro lens has a magnification ratio of 1:1, and a minimum focusing distance of around 30cm.

What focal length is best for macro?

A focal length of around 90-105mm is often regarded as ideal for macro photography, as it allows you to get close but not too close to what you’re shooting.

Is a macro lens good for food photography?

To zoom in on the most delicious food, you’ll want to get closer, so the minimum focal length of the lens becomes important, and a macro lens would be ideal. 30mm to 60mm macro prime lenses with an f/2.8 rating are ideal for crop sensor cameras to photograph food.

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