The Zen of Underwater Strobe Placement



By Jim Decker


Watch our video to get started on your path to becoming a strobe placement master.

Over the years I have taught thousands of people how to shoot underwater. By far the number 1 question I am asked is “Where do I put my strobes?” as if there is one magic position to put their strobes. My simple Zen master answer to the student is always, “What do you want to light?” Aim the strobes at the thing you want to light!

If you don’t know what you want to light, you will never know where to put your strobes.

Which brings us to some fundamental truths about where to put your strobes:

1. Knowing where to put your strobes requires knowing what you want to light.
2. Knowing what to light means knowing what you want to have as a foreground subject.
3. Knowing what you want to have as a foreground subject means knowing what you want your composition to be.

Which brings us to composition. Composition is not just about cutting Uncle Joe’s head off while he’s blowing out candles on a birthday cake. It is about where subjects are placed in the frame, how those subjects are lit, and where the focus point is set. For this article, we’ll concentrate on the strobe lighting aspect of composition, how to highlight subjects and draw attention to them, and of course where to put your strobes.

insert image of snake eel and diver shot with laowa lens

An image should tell a story. In this image, the snake eel is the primary subject by being placed in the foreground and being lit by the strobe. The strobe only lights the subject and not the sand. The diver is a secondary subject that is purposely out of focus, in the background, and not lit by the strobe. The diver’s light looks like it is hitting the snake eel and the diver has “discovered” this critter in the sand. All of these elements were a conscious decision in the composition of this photo.
Sony a7R III | Laowa Probe Lens | 1/80 | ISO 1000 | ƒ22


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