Scuba Diving Under the Oil Rigs


A big Thank You to Dive Photo Guide for publishing my article on scuba diving under the oil rigs.  I am truly honored to be featured!  To read the article, click HERE.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

Underwater Photography 101: Let There Be Light!


Most photographers know that light is crucial to good photography.  The way light is applied to a subject can drastically change the way we perceive it. When I first began taking pictures under water, I had a compact camera with an on board flash. But my images came out looking blue or green. There just wasn’t enough light. Then I purchased a small strobe and everything changed. The strobe had enough power to light my subject and some of the surrounding environment. As my skills improved, my lighting needs evolved and it wasn’t long before I was using two strobes.

I am always learning new lighting techniques. Some of my favorites include using a snoot, using fill light, and strobe placement. I think they all take a lot of practice to master, but the snoot seems to be many a photographer’s arch nemesis. Put simply, a snoot is tool that channels light from a wide beam down to a small area. It is used to light just the subject and not the surrounding environment. There are different types of snoots, too. Some, funnel light from the strobe into a beam that looks like a spotlight. Others use fiber optics that enable the photographer to articulate the light in any direction.

Many-Lobed Ceratosoma image created with a fiber optic snoot

Many-Lobed Ceratosoma image created with a fiber optic snoot

This nudibranch was photographed using a fiber optic snoot positioned directly above the subject. In the image following, the same nudibranch was photographed using one strobe on the right side.

Many-Lobed Ceratosoma lit with one strobe.

Many-Lobed Ceratosoma lit with one strobe.

Notice how much of the surrounding environment is lit when the strobe is used. It can be very creative and pleasing to light only your subject or even a portion of your subject.

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Snoots can also be used for wide angle photography. In this case, the snoot is used to reduce backscatter, or light just a foreground subject. The snoot used in the image below was nothing more than an old wetsuit sleeve that was cut off and placed over the end of the strobe so that the beam angle would be reduced to something like a spotlight. This enabled me to light up just the foreground subject without lighting any particles in the water.

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The “go-to” article on using snoots was published by Dive Photo Guide and Keri Wilk. For more in-depth information on snoots, check out the article HERE.

Fill light is another technique I have come to appreciate. It was only recently that I learned that I didn’t have to have both my strobes set to the same power when I was taking an image. When one strobe is set to a higher power and one to a lower power, you can have a subject that is strongly lit on one side, while filling in with a little bit of light on the other. This can create more dramatic texture and shadows in your image.

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In this image, the strobe on the left was set to half power, and the strobe on the right was set to 1/4 power. That allowed the texture in this nudibranch’s rhinophores and branchial plume to appear more defined.

Finally strobe placement is probably the most important and most used technique I have up my sleeve. I am continuously moving my strobes around. It is important to think about the direction the light is coming from in order to properly light your subject. Sometimes you want the light to come from directly above the subject. Such was the case with this jawfish that would not come out of its hole. In order to light it properly, I had to aim my strobes directly down on the fish.

Jawfish with eggs

Jawfish with eggs

Other times you may want to isolate the subject against a black background. In this case, the subject has nothing behind it but water, and the strobe light is coming from directly in front of the subject.

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You can also isolate the subject from a busy background by turning your strobes in towards your camera housing. This way, only the edge of the strobe’s light beam reaches your subject, and the background remains dark.

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All of these lighting techniques take practice and patience. Often, no matter how I aim my strobes, I just can’t get the subject lit to my satisfaction. But the point is, don’t be afraid to try all kinds of different lighting techniques. You may find you have a whole new stock pile of tools in your photographic toolbox if you do.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

 

Great Advice from a Master Underwater Photographer


I just came across this article and wanted to share this great advice with any other aspiring underwater photographers.  Please enjoy!

This coral head is one of my favorite images because of the diversity of life surrounding it.

Image by Brook Peterson

How to take the perfect underwater photo, according to a master Hawaii photographer

Hawaii Magazine

Underwater Photography 101: The Beginning Beginner


People often ask what the best camera is for underwater photography.  Chase Jarvis said, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” I do believe that is true.  When I first started shooting images underwater, I had no idea what a good snapshot should look like, let alone how to get that image.  I started my underwater photographic journey with a compact camera, that was made for underwater photography.  It had a setting for blue water, and one for green water, and an on-board flash.

Fish over Hard Coral

The above image was taken with my new compact camera on its maiden voyage (or dive) which also happened to be my first dive after certifying.  It isn’t horrible, but I sure could have used some pointers back then.  Later I learned the importance of good lighting and I added a strobe to my compact camera.

Good lighting makes a big difference as you can see from the above photo in my first effort using a strobe.

After a year of experimenting with my compact camera and strobe, I began to master some of the basics and my desire for a DSLR camera became stronger. The next image was taken on my new DSLR’s maiden dive.  You can see that there is improvement in the clarity and composition of this image.

Blenny in hole

My point in showing off my first efforts with underwater photography is to demonstrate that I had a lot to learn in the beginning, and after a couple of years of practicing, I got better.  But I didn’t simply get better.  I studied other images by well known underwater photographers.  I read books on underwater photography and took both private and group classes with underwater photography instructors.  I found some mentors and I asked them a lot of questions and I asked them for critiques of my work. Eventually, I began to take images that I am now proud to put my name on.

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Fortunately for beginning underwater photographers, there is help!  I recently became acquainted with Matt Smith who has created a great info-graphic for beginning underwater photographers. You can read his blog here.  At the end of the info-graphic, there is a list of resources you can use to further your study in underwater photography.  Most of them were sources I used when I was learning. One of the most valuable of these was Underwater Photography Guide , an online resource center with lots of accomplished photographers who contribute articles on mastering underwater photography techniques. In addition to these, I joined some underwater photography groups on Facebook where I could see what other photographers were doing.  Wetpixel and Underwater Macro Photographers boast some wonderful photography on Facebook.

So as you progress through your journey in underwater photography, don’t get discouraged.  It is a lot to learn, but there is a lot of help out there.  Check out my “Underwater Photography 101” series and accompanying You Tube tutorials for more information.

If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 or D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

Underwater Photography 101: Lightroom’s Local Tools


Creative Cloud has announced their 2015 update to Adobe products and among them is a cool update to the local tools in Lightroom.  I’m talking about one of my favorite new tools, “Dehaze.”  For the past few months, this tool has been a global tool residing in the “Effects” module (where it can still be found).  But now, it can also be found under the “adjustment brush” in the local tools module.  For a video tutorial of how to use some of the local tools for underwater photography, click on the image below.

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If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 or D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

 

Underwater Photography 101: Cut your Fringe! Dealing with Chromatic Abberation


Have you ever had an image that could be great if only there wasn’t that weird blue/purple outline along your subject’s back?  Well I have. And to tell you the truth, until someone pointed it out to me, I didn’t really notice how distracting it was. Meet “Chromatic Abberation,” a sketchy friend of a friend who lurks in shadows and has blue hair. Also known as “Color Fringing.”

Chromatic abberation happens when a lens is unable to bring all the colors in a wavelength into the same focal plane.  The results are often a bluish or greenish outline around the subject or parts of the subject.

Below is an image of an Alleni nudibranch, a very uncommon creature.  You can see a bluish tint around the bottom of its protruding lobes.

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Fortunately, Adobe Lightroom has a fix for this!  It can be found in the DEVELOP module in the LENS CORRECTIONS toolbox.

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When you open this toolbox, you will see a menu across the top (Basic, Profile, Color, and Manual).  Click on the word COLOR.  From here you can try clicking in the box that says “Remove Chromatic Abberation.”  Lightroom can automatically find the color fringing and reduce it.  If this does not completely solve the problem, you can click on the eyedropper then click on the color that you want removed from your image.  This will reduce the fringing even further.

In the image below, you can see that the color fringing has been greatly reduced, but there is still a little bit that lingers.  Here is one more trick you can try:

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Click on the “HSL/COLOR/B&W” toolbox.  You will see the colors listed under Hue, Saturation, and Luminance.  Try desaturating the offensive color slightly.  In this case, the “blue” desaturation slider worked great.

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Sometimes making small corrections like this makes all the difference between a good image and a great image.

To watch a video of this tutorial, click HERE.

If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 or D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

Underwater Photography 101: “Azure Blue” Tips for achieving a beautiful blue background


Beautiful blue water behind a mesmerizing subject is one of the goals that every underwater photographer strives for.  It is not always easy, especially if the water you are diving in isn’t a beautiful blue!  This tutorial will address a few ways you can achieve great backgrounds in-camera, while giving your images a little creative punch.

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Underwater photographers shooting with a DSLR or compact camera with a manual mode, have several options when it comes to capturing the color of the water behind a subject.  These options include the ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and strobe use.  I always shoot in manual mode when I am under water.  It allows me to control how much light reaches my sensor.

In the photograph below, I used a higher ISO to boost the ambient light in the image.  In this case, I had the ISO set to 500.  This allowed more color and light saturation.  Historically, DSLR’s have a lot of “noise” when the ISO is higher.  However, the newer cameras are capable of getting a finer image with a higher ISO.  This can be a great advantage to the underwater photographer.

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Aperture is one of the tricky concepts when trying to control ambient light and get a bright blue background. Opening up the aperture does allow more light and may be necessary if you are using a high shutter speed. If for example, you are trying to freeze the sunbeams coming down through the water, you would want a high shutter speed to stop the light (1/250th or higher) and meter the background for aperture, so the sun isn’t too bright. This image has a shutter speed of 1/320th (the highest speed my strobes can sync with). The aperture is f/11.

A Hard and a soft coral bask in the sun

A Hard and a soft coral bask in the sun

If you are using strobes, (and sunbeams aren’t a factor) I advise using an aperture of f/8 or above, and metering into the blue water for the shutter speed.  The ISO may need to be a bit higher as well. The strobes fire at a fraction of the shutter speed and will freeze the subject so you can use shutter speeds as low as 1/13th, 1/25th, or 1/30th for close focus, wide angle shots, and macro shots.  The image below has an ISO of 200, high aperture at f/18, and very slow shutter speed at 1/13th.  The strobes fire at about 1/1000th of a second, so the movement of the subject is frozen because it is only lit up for a fraction of the time the shutter is open.

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Macro shots can be very interesting when they utilize ambient light.  This tiny nudibranch was created using a higher ISO (400) and shooting almost directly into the sun to get enough light to expose the blue background.  Because I wanted a sharp focus on the entire nudibranch, I stopped down the aperture to f/36, and the shutter speed was metered against the sun to 1/80th.

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

It has been very trendy lately to get a black background behind your subject.  To achieve this, you need to have nothing but water behind your subject, and a high shutter speed.  Here is the same nudibranch with drastically different settings:  ISO 100, f/36, 1/320th.  This lets in no ambient light.  Only the strobe lights the subject.  Which image do you like better?

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If you are new to underwater photography, you should spend some time experimenting with the aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings on your camera.  Light plays such a big part in creating images, that it is arguably the most important concept to master as a photographer.

If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here atwaterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

 

 

 

Underwater Photography 101: Focus, Focus, Focus! (Part 1)


Focus is an important factor in any type of photography and simple minute changes to the focus can have an astounding effect on the viewer’s perspective.  Sometimes it is hard to decide whether to make the majority of the image sharp or soft.  Sometimes it is hard to decide just where the focus should be.  This tutorial is an exploration of creative ideas that can be implemented both above and below the water line.  It is in two parts.  The first part will deal with what is generally thought to be important to focus on:  i.e. eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. Remember that photography is subjective, so these are loose rules.  In “Underwater Photography 101: Focus, Focus, Focus! (Part 2)” you will learn how to use the camera’s aperture, light and motion to achieve more artistic focusing ideas.

One of the first things we have to determine is what should be in focus.  If you are photographing an animal that can look back at you, then it is essential that you have its eyes in focus, and very desirable that those eyes be looking at the camera.

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Sometimes the eyes are very obscure, so making sure they are in focus adds interest to the photograph.  Did you know that snails have “eyes?”

Simnia snail

Simnia snail

If the animal is a nudibranch, it may have “eye spots.” However, in this animal’s case, the rhinophores are the most important, and one, or preferably both, should be in focus.

Hypselodoris kangas

Hypselodoris kangas

Sometimes it is more interesting to be artistic than “correct.” But you should know the rules before you attempt to break them. For example, the following images are of the rhinophores and the “gills” on a nudibranch. Since butt shots are not in vogue, it is important to know which side of the animal you are photographing. You want your image to be deliberate, and not an accident.  Of the two images below, which one do you think is more interesting? More correct?  More artistic? (There’s no wrong answer)

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If the animal has an interesting feature, you may want to focus on that. This ribbon eel has a very interesting mouth and flaring nose, so focusing on those features makes an interesting image. Don’t forget teeth! Teeth can be the most dramatic part of an image.

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Please visit “Underwater Photography 101:  Focus, Focus, Focus! Part 2” for more tips on focus! It will provide tips on using aperture, movement and lighting to achieve artistic images.

If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

Underwater Photography 101: “Clean it Up!” (Dealing with Backscatter)


Most photographers don’t worry too much about dust particles floating in the air in front of their subjects, but in underwater photography, particles in the water is one of our main concerns.  It may be difficult for both beginning and advanced underwater photographers to get an image with a clean background. By “clean,”  I mean that the water around the subject is not full of little white specks. This is known as “backscatter.” Backscatter happens when particles in the water reflect the light from your strobes back towards your camera lens. If the water has a lot of particulate in it, you could get a lot of backscatter.  Here are a few tips to help eliminate backscatter.

#1:  Pull it back

Some images get a lot of backscatter because the strobes are too far forward and the beam of the strobe is directly lighting all the particles in front of your lens. It might appear as a flare on one or both sides of the image, or just look like a lot of white specks all over your image.

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In this selfie, the strobe on the right of the image was behind the dome port and turned out, but the one on the left of the image was a little forward of the dome port and turned toward the subject. The strobe on the left lit up all the particles in the water to the left of the subject. It is obvious that this could have been avoided if the left strobe had been pulled back further, as illustrated by the strobe on the right, which is not lighting any particles.

In the following image, look at where the strobe is placed in relation to the dome port. It is pulled back so that it’s light does not go through the dome. This image is meant to demonstrates how far back your strobes should be behind your dome port.

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#2:  Turn it out!

The next image is a diagram of the beam angle of the strobes. (You will need to check your own strobes to see what the beam angle is, but it is usually less than 100 degrees.) Imagine that the strobes are turned out slightly, so that the angle of your beam (shown in yellow) from each strobe meets in front of your dome port. If you position your strobes so that the beam meets where your subject is, the area that is not lit should not show any particles. Ideally, you want the light from your strobes to light only the subject, and not the water in front of the subject to reduce the chances of lighting up particulate in the water. You can adjust this angle by turning your strobes further out, or by moving them out away from your housing.

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Sometimes, you just get a bit of backscatter no matter what you try. Minor backscatter can be eliminated in post-processing. There are numerous ways to remove backscatter from otherwise great images. I will show you one method I use in Adobe Lightroom CC  when I have a background that is black, and a different method I use in Adobe Photoshop CC when I have blue water with backscatter in it.  Just click on the title or image below to watch a “How To” video.

How to remove backscatter from a black background using this great trick in Adobe Lightroom!

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How to remove backscatter from blue water using this great trick in Adobe Photoshop!

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If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

Underwater Photography 101: “White Balance”


This is a post-processing tip inspired by the many almost beautiful photographs I see in my underwater group news feeds.  So many of these photographs have great composition, interesting subjects, and good lighting, but lack the “umph” needed to be truly fantastic.  It’s an easy fix, too, and one that should be employed as a matter of routine in all post processing.  I’m talking about correcting white balance, of course, and using a few other basic tools.  Here we will cover how to make a photo go from this:

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to this:

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in just a few easy steps. I use Adobe Lightroom CC for the majority of my post-processing and I will use Lightroom in this tutorial.

Underwater photography has its own unique rules when it comes to post-processing.  If you shoot with a DSLR, you have likely been taught to shoot in RAW format, and to use the auto white balance in-camera.  This is because it is expected that you will finish processing the photos yourself, rather than letting the camera make decisions about the photograph for you, (as it will if you shoot in jpeg format.) Why shoot RAW files?  A RAW file retains ALL the information that the sensor of your camera records.  If you use jpeg, the camera picks what information is important, processes it, and throws the rest away. Under water images are affected by the water itself and have issues with lighting, contrast, and loss of color to name a few.  The camera is manufactured for images taken topside, so the camera is likely to throw away the wrong information.  That is why post-processing under water images is so important.

White balance can be set manually for every shot you take under water, but it is cumbersome and time consuming and can easily be taken care of in post processing.  Set your camera to “auto white balance” and use RAW files if possible.

After you have imported your images, you will see them in the “LIBRARY” module.  There are several modules in Lightroom along the top right of the screen.  After you choose the image you want to work on, you will click on the “DEVELOP” module.

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This will bring up a set of tools to the right that you will use to process your image. You can open the tools by clicking on the triangular arrow to the far right of each toolbox.  In the toolbox below, you can see that I have the Histogram and the Basic toolboxes open.

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I will use the Basic tool box to adjust the white balance of my image.  My photo has too much brown/gold in it, and the beautiful colors of the fish are muted.  *Unless you are very close to your subject, you are likely to have too much green, blue, or yellow in your image.  In the Basic tool box (above), you can see “WB:  As Shot” towards the top.  You can click on “As Shot” for a drop-down menu of different white balance effects.  Try them.  You may like “auto” the best.  If none of these correct the color issues, you can try adjusting the Temp and Tint sliders or use the eye-dropper tool to the left.  Just click on the eyedropper tool, move it over your image until the R.G.B. values in the drop down box are close to 50%, then “click.”  (You can also see what your image will look like before “clicking” as you move the eyedropper over it in the small box on the upper left.

WB eyedropper tool

Here is my image with only the white balance corrected:

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That took only one “click” and it is already much better.  I can fine tune it further if I want, by moving the Temp and Tint Sliders.

After I fix the white balance, I will use the sliders from Exposure down to Saturation to bring up the contrast, take down the highlights, etc.  The box below shows what settings I used for this image.

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This is my final result:

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It takes only a few minutes to adjust the white balance and a few other basics.  But what a difference it makes!

To watch a video of this tutorial, click HERE

*The reason you will have too much green, blue, or yellow in your image if you are more than a few inches away from your subject, is because of the distance the light has to travel through the water column from your camera to the subject and back again.  Water is denser than air, and has a “tint” to it.  This will show up in your images, thus the need to redefine what is “white.”

If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me