Written by SARAH SEKULA
Snapping really good underwater photos while bobbing around in the open ocean is certainly tricky: You have to balance holding your breath while keeping an eye out for surrounding marine life.
Just ask Jenny Sathngam, a professional underwater photographer based in Honolulu. She’s out on the water three to four times a week, and, lucky for us, she is sharing some of her tips.
The first step is choosing the right time of day to shoot. When on land, you’d avoid the harsh midday sun and aim instead for early morning and late afternoon to snag golden-hour lighting.
Starting with a point-and-shoot waterproof camera at a shallow depth can work really well. Or consider a GoPro, which has a wide-angle lens and is compact and user-friendly.
But for underwater photography, you need all the sunlight you can get, so it’s best to shoot in the middle of the day in order to capture the light rays piercing through the water.
If you are a newbie when it comes to underwater photography, stick to shallow water while you're learning. Since less light is absorbed at shallower depths, you will be able to capture truer colors.
Know your gear
If your budget allows and you already know you really want to pursue underwater photography, go ahead and spring for a DSLR, water housing and a strobe. Better yet, rent the gear first.
When Sathngam is not in work mode and wants something less bulky, her go-to is the waterproof Nikon Nikonos V, a 35mm film camera. It makes her feel like an old-school underwater explorer.
It’s crucial to be extremely comfortable in the ocean before attempting to take photos. Whether you are snorkeling, free diving or scuba diving, you need to be strong at swimming and diving.
Your main focus should be getting good photos. That said, taking a course on free diving could certainly be useful. PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) has ones for all skill levels.
It’s also highly recommended you use the buddy system since plenty of things can go wrong. “Not only is it safer, you can photograph your friends in between looking for fish,” says Sathngam.