Gear Essentials for Underwater Photography
Underwater photography in Bali is a mesmerizing art that allows us to capture the breathtaking beauty of the underwater world. But this can only be done by having the right equipment. Whether you’re a professional photographer, an amateur enthusiast, or even a beginner, having the right gear is essential to creating stunning underwater images.
In this article, we’ll dive into the gear essentials for underwater photography, ensuring that you’re well-prepared to dive in Bali or any part of the world.
The underwater environment presents unique challenges, such as watercolor absorption, low light conditions, and the need to protect your camera from water damage. To overcome these challenges, you need specialized equipment.
The heart of your underwater photography setup is, of course, your camera. Depending on your budget and expectations you’ll have to choose from many setups. Options include compact waterproof cameras or more advanced DSLR or mirrorless systems encased in waterproof housings. Compacts, especially the waterproof ones will of course be cheaper but will be limited (sensor size, manual settings, autofocus, megapixels…). Mirrorless will cost you much more especially with the housing but thee quality of the image will be perfect.
To choose between those 2 options check out this video.
Sturdy underwater Housing
To protect your camera from water, you’ll need a high-quality housing. These housings are specially designed to fit specific camera and should provide full control over camera functions. I prefer aluminium housings over acrylic or other materials but it shouldn’t be the main factor in your decision.
Good ergonomy and being able to use all the buttons of your camera is probably the most important. With time and practice, you should be able to find all the knobs and buttons with your eyes closed allowing you to concentrate on your picture. Personally I recommend you to make sure that your housing has a leak detection and also a vacuum system. The risk zero doesn’t exist, but if your housing is “airproof”, it should be waterproof. Having drowned many cameras I can tell you that it doesn’t feel good. This extra expense will give you peace of mind.
Lenses and ports
Selecting the right lens can make a significant difference in your underwater shots. Wide-angle lenses are excellent for capturing expansive seascapes and marine life, while macro lenses are perfect for close-ups. Thanks Dr obvious!
Nowadays camera manufacturers fight to have the best camera for a budget and they get pretty close. Whether you like Canon, Sony Nikon or even other brands you’ll probably find the good camera for your price range.
But what about glass. Does your camera allow third party lenses, is the macro options good enough for your expectations… Some will even start by choosing the lenses they want and get the camera that goes with it. And I think it’s a good way to get the best setup for you. With your lenses you’ll also need ports and domes to fit your system. Make sure to follow manufacturer charts. And don’t forget focus and zoom gear… For domes I recommend glass, even if it’s more expensive you’ll be happy in the long run.
Lighting : Light or strobe ?
Lighting is key in underwater photography and shouldn’t be overlooked. Taking pictures is just getting light through the lens to your sensor so, the more light you have the better it is. Even in clear waters like in Bali, natural light diminishes as you go deeper due to color absorption. Horizontally you lose a lot of the power of your light very quickly. The further your subject will be, the more light you will lose .
Consider adding external strobes or video lights to illuminate your subjects effectively. If you’re on a budget, a video light to start will be a good option. It will help you bring back the colors that disappear from shallow depth. Adding a snoot to it will help you capture incredible maro pictures by isolating your critter and making a black background. Color filters will also allow you to be more creative and bring your images to the next level.
But then if you want the full package (especially for wide angle pics) you’ll go with the more powerful strobes (with or without snoot), focus light… Powerful strobes will bring back all the light that you lost in the water and much more allowing you to be more creative with your camera settings.
Wet lenses can be attached to your camera housing to provide additional versatility.
With diopters you can take pictures of super small critters. Your macro lens will make the focus on the reflection on the wet lens, so no more problem with focus distance minimum. You’ll have a very challenging small working distance but it will allow you to do super macro of animals smaller than 1cm.
Wide angle wet lense will allow you quick switching between wide-angle and macro photography without surfacing. This is also the best way to do close focus wide angle.