3 Unusual Macro Photo Tips

There have been many articles written on how to improve your underwater macro photos. My articles, like the others, contain very similar tips and suggestions. We focus on things like basic composition, focusing on the eyes, separating the subject from the background, and getting close.

Let’s change it up and go beyond these basics. Let’s talk about 3 unusual macro photo tips that will take your images to the next level.

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3 Unusual Macro Photo Tips

Adopt a Macro Photo Mentality

A photographer named Ansel Adams once said something along the lines of “You don’t take a photo, you make it.” This is really what a macro photo mindset is all about.

Many new underwater photographers rush to click a photo or two of a subject as they see it or as a dive guide points it out, rapidly swimming off to see the next critter. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll capture a great image with this method.

Instead, try to pre-visualize the photo you would like to create once you see the subject. Will you use a macro diopter? What is the best composition? How much depth of field will complement your composition? How should you position your strobe or light(s)?

If you adopt this photo mentality you’ll begin to adjust camera settings and lighting even before pressing the shutter. You’ll be shooting to capture your preconceived idea instead of just snapping a pic. Your photography will improve dramatically as a result.

Stabilize Yourself

Macro photography compositions, lighting and the ability to focus are dramatically affected by subtle changes in underwater camera position.

It will be very difficult to work on improving these variables if you haven’t mastered your buoyancy, so this should be the first order of business for any newer diver. If you’re willing to set down the camera for a few dives and really practice buoyancy, you’ll be making far better photos than if you took the camera along and ‘forced’ the photos.

The next step is to create rock solid stability through use of a muck stick (aka reef stick, pointer, macro stick). This stick can be used as a monopod, as a means to get lower and closer to a subject, and as a way to lift off silty substrate without kicking your fins.

This is my FAVORITE REEF STICK!

A scuba diver uses a muck stick to stabilize herself while shooting an underwater macro photo.

Review Your Images

This tip seems obvious but can easily be left behind while we’re in the water excited to be scuba diving with new marine life.

If you shoot two photos in row without changing any settings, guess what? You’ll have two of the same image. Potentially two images with the same mistake.

Be sure to review each image after you shoot it by pressing the playback or image review button on your housing. All underwater cameras and housings have this button.

As you review your image, keep an eye on composition, lighting, focus and exposure. Decide what you don’t like, how to fix it, make the change, and then shoot again.

Underwater Camera Image Review LCD screen

Next, review your images once back on the beach or dive boat. Was there an issue affecting your images all dive? One common culprit is backscatter that is hard to see in the LCD screen.

RELATED: How to Minimize Backscatter

Finally, be sure to review your images on the computer each night after your dive day. Study the images you like as well as the images you don’t like and see if you can learn what to do or what not to do.

I also offer personal images reviews. Learn more on the Virtual Lessons page.

You’ll see a rapid increase in your “keepers” by practicing all these tips.


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Brent Durand

Professional writer and underwater photo instructor. Brent is an avid diver and surfer, and has led many intensive photo workshops around the world. BrentDurand.com.