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Looking for Help Improving My Photos

Discussion in 'Tips and Techniques' started by CharlieDontDive, May 19, 2019.

  1. CharlieDontDive

    CharlieDontDive Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Philadelphia, PA
    61
    26
    18
    I am looking for some feedback on how to improve my UW photography, specifically in terms of camera settings. I recently upgraded from an Intova X2 to the SeaLife DC2000 with the SeaLife "Sea Dragon" strobe. I just took this camera on a dive for the first time today and I'm dissatisfied with the quality of the photos. I know the camera is capable of better pictures than this but I need some assistance in doing so: SeaLife DC2000 at Dutch Springs

    Current camera/strobe settings:
    • Flash brightness (dial on strobe): "Automatic" ("A")
    • Scene Mode: "External Flash"
    • ISO: "Auto"
    • EV: "Auto"
    • White Balance: "Auto"
    • Flash Setting: "External Flash"
    • Manual exposure controls: not used

    The photos were taken at Dutch Springs in PA. I am aware that limited ambient light and relatively poor visibility mean there are limits to what any camera can achieve. I'm soliciting feedback and assistance so that I can hopefully make some tweaks to the camera settings before taking it to the Algol wreck off NJ in 2 weeks.

    I am certainly open to suggestions about actual photography techniques but currently I'm most interested in making sure my camera and strobe settings are ideally set. I don't have any formal training in UW photography but I have a general understanding of the principles involved.

    Thank you!

    Edit: It's worth noting that my favorite photography subjects are wrecks and underwater landscapes. Given the wide angles & distances required, I am aware that this is tough to do...
     
  2. RVBldr

    RVBldr PADI Pro

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Redmond, WA
    254
    58
    28
    Taking wider angle shots in crappy viz is just really hard (I shoot in the Seattle area) and auto settings may or may not get you what you want. I haven't shot with the DC2000, but just looking at the specs, it has the 1" Sony sensor so it should take nice shots in line with an RX100 it appears. For our local Puget Sound, lighting is everything - we normally use at two strobes and a focus light, but we can get decent results with a single strobe.

    At a high level, remove as much distance between you and target as is possible - open space only provides particles for back-scatter. Don't point strobe directly at target, off set a bit so it feathers into the target, which should help reduce back-scatter. Finally, figure out your optimal settings and shoot in manual mode. For our green water, depending on the scene, I can shoot the critters at F11, and a higher shutter speed with two YS-D1 strobes, and that's with an ISO at 100 to 200. Figure out what shutter speed works, then you can adjust exposure with the strobe EV settings if possible. On the RX-100, I find it's easier to adjust one stop up or down just by changing the strobe rather than mess with camera settings. Above all, just go take pics - it's going to take you a while to get dialed in.
     
  3. CharlieDontDive

    CharlieDontDive Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Philadelphia, PA
    61
    26
    18
    1.) Can you explain how to make the strobe "feather" onto the subject?

    2.) Can you provide a little more info on how to optimize the manual settings? I'm unfamiliar with F11 and how to adjust shutter speed...I'm aware this topic is rather in-depth so no need for an entire thesis (unless you are so inclined.)

    3.) Do you think ISO 100-200 is good for green water, generally speaking? Or should I leave it on Auto and just turn the strobe up a bit?

    4.) Regarding the above...any idea what setting I should set the strobe to?

    5.) Any more tips for trying to get wider-angle shots (as problematic as that is.) I'm relatively less interested in photographing sea life than I am with capturing wrecks and underwater landscapes- although I read loud and clear such subjects are inherently difficult.

    Thank you so much for your help.
     
  4. DevilEyeDog

    DevilEyeDog REEF Volunteer

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: USA
    87
    75
    18
    I started diving about 2 years ago. I thought I knew how to take a good photo on land. Completely different under water. Here's the best advice people have given me:
    --Light. You can never have enough. Ideally 2 strobes (I can only afford to have one). I also have two side lights
    --Better divers take better pictures. You have to not move. Control your breathing. I'll inhale, steady myself and exhale. Think about breath when you shoot because movement is bad for pictures
    --Get Lightroom (or some other high end photo software). EVERY photographer edits their pictures. At first I thought "what am I doing wrong", but then I learned they all edit them. Your pictures are green. No worries. Lightroom can take the green out.. NEVER think that even the best photographers are getting those shots without an editor. Yes, they are very good shots, but they make them excellent by editing them.
    --Get CLOSE to the subject. With bad viz nothing will look great, but if you get close to a fish or structure and provide lighting it'll look good.
    --Lastly, play around with the settings. Most ISO are 100 or 200 and sometimes auto settings shoot it higher. Practice on land in a dark room or at dusk so you can see what the settings do. From there apply under water.

    That's the best advice given to me. I was SO frustrated at first. But I read a lot and asked advice and just kept at all. I don't have award winning shots, but I'm happy with them and they are only for myself and a few friends I show. And all photographers will tell you they shoot hundreds of photos and maybe get a few they are truly happy with and maybe one or two epic shots out of the hundreds. I could shoot 300 photos on a dive and keep 25 and may only think 1 or 2 are awesome.
    And no, my photos did not look like this before I edited them. Here are some nudibranchs from the cold waters of New England. Epic, no? Am I happy, yes. And that's all that matters. I have decent photos for memories.

    GOOD LUCK!! You'll get better with every dive!! PROMISE!
     

    Attached Files:

  5. Ryan Neely

    Ryan Neely Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Akeley, MN USA
    83
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    Caveat: While I have a over twenty years of experience as a photographer on land, I have very limited experience underwater. Additionally, I'm not totally familiar with your camera. That being said ...

    Can you set a custom white balance? This would be the first thing I'd look at. Bring a dive slate with you and use it to set a custom white balance right after your descent. (If you really wanted to be technical, you probably ought to change your white balance with each depth change, but you decide as you see fit.)

    Does your camera have a TTL (through-the-lens) setting for your strobe? Something that will actually control the strobe's power when set in Automatic mode? Otherwise, it might be beneficial to get an idea of what the power settings on your strobe does. If these images were taken on land, my second thought (after white balance) would be that your strobe just isn't strong enough.

    In air, light falls off at the inverse square of the distance (in other words, the power of the light at 8 feet from the camera is half of what it would be at 4 feet from the camera). In water (though I haven't studied the physics of it), I'm certain this is effect is even more pronounced in water, thus the advice to get as close as possible to your subject. (For what it's worth, I tell all my photography students that nobody gets close enough to their subjects ... not even on land. Close is king, and don't be afraid to crop in Lightroom or a similar photo editing software.)

    "Feathering" your strobe is really a term used to describe not pointing the center of the light directly at your subject. The "feather" is the outside cone of the light. By aiming the light away from the center of viewpoint of the camera, you're mixing up the direction in which the light will travel. Remember that the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence. That's a fancy way of saying that if the light aims in the same direction the camera points the light will hit any particles in the water and bounce back straight into the camera. By angling them "off-axis" the reflected light should minimize some of that "back scatter." (Fun fact: this is a great technique to understand when photographing in the rain or snow; putting the light behind the particles, aimed toward the camera, is often the only way to show the rain or snow on film.)

    As for your aperture (the F11 RVBldr mentioned) or the shutter speed mentioned ... these are a bit more technical.

    First, if your lights are true strobes (meaning they flash a bright intensity of light when the shutter is depressed and not a light that is continually on all the time), then you'll want to experiment with the aperture (or "f" number). It is the aperture that influences the exposure of a strobe. Shutter speed has nothing to do with aperture.

    F11 is an okay number to start with, but ... depending on your ISO setting ... you might want to try some experimentation to see if you can find a setting that works for you. The larger that number F11, F16, etc., the aperture opening will be smaller and brighter the strobe will need to be. The converse is then true. The smaller the number F4, F5.6 the aperture opening will be larger and the less intense the strobe will need to be.

    Without doing some studying, the best way to figure this out is just to take a bunch of photographs and trying it out (take notes if you can).

    I wouldn't be afraid of using a higher ISO. Most folks want to stick to 100 or 200 because the amount of "noise" will be minimized, but honestly, unless you're shooting with an ISO of something like 6400 or 12500, you're unlikely to notice this noise (so long as the exposure is right on ... i.e., the lighting is good).

    Again, this is going to require some experimentation.

    Finally, your shutter speed ... this is the setting that affects the ambient light (this is the light from the sun filtering through the water or from any lights that are continuously on, like your dive light or any "always on" light on your rig.

    In all honesty, I don't know that I would worry too much about this setting if you're shooting with strobes. The only thing you'll want to know if what the "Sync speed" of your camera is (it should be in your manual, but is usually 1/125", but has been known to be as slow as 1/60" or 1/250"). The deal is, just make sure your shutter speed is set to this number or slower.

    If your camera has an Aperture Priority setting, I'd use that. You can set the aperture you like and it will decide the shutter speed for you.

    All of that might have been more confusing than not, but feel free to ask more questions and I'll do my best to clarify things.
     
  6. MaxBottomtime

    MaxBottomtime Divemaster

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Torrance, CA
    8,617
    7,401
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    In green water, the light from your strobe will only travel a couple of feet. You need to get closer to your subject. Shoot in manual mode only. In auto mode, the camera sees nothing but dark green and compensates for that, and never very well. When I shoot wide angle, I often shoot at ISO 320 or 200. I slow my shutter speed down and hold the camera as still as possible. Depending on which lens I'm using, I often shoot between f6.3 and f16. My strobes are in manual mode. I turn them up if I need more light, but typically they are around 1/2 power for wide angle.

    For macro, I shoot ISO 100, my shutter speed will typically be 1/250 and f stops will range between f/16-f45 if I get really close, with f/22 being common. The most important rule is to get close, look up and get closer.

    This shot was in dark, green water. The shadows are darker than I would have liked, but it is possible to get shots in green water. f6.3, 1/200, ISO 100. I should have opened the ISO a bit more but it's not too bad.
    46825937794_942f6a4d85_b.jpg

    Also, shoot in RAW so you will have more to work with in post processing. I played around with one of your JPEGs but wasn't able to do much.
    Na441c2.jpg
     
    FezUSA likes this.
  7. RVBldr

    RVBldr PADI Pro

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Redmond, WA
    254
    58
    28
    As with the other replies, there's a lot to this, I'd recommend Martin Edge's book The Underwater Photographer. Awesome reference for those new to U/W photo.

    It is possible to get great shots in green water, but it does take some work. upload_2019-5-19_20-23-0.png
     
    FezUSA likes this.
  8. Chris Ross

    Chris Ross Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Sydney Australia
    378
    126
    43
    With a 1" sensor I would suggest f5.6 that's equivalent to f16 on full frame for depth of field. Stopping down more means you need more light from your strobes. Set your camera to manual maybe 1/125, f5.6 and ISO200. Take a shot with flash on manual, keep increasing output till the exposure is right. You can get an idea by running a few tests on land photographing something maybe 200-300mm away from the lens, to get the approximate power needed for correct flash exposure. For strobe positioning, have a look at this guide: https://www.opticaloceansales.com/files/OOS-Strobe-Positioning.pdf

    You want the strobe to provide most of your light, you do this my providing enough strobe power and decreasing the exposure from ambient light by raising your shutter speed or lowering your ISO. How far you can go depends on how much power your strobe has and more importantly how close you get. If you think you are close enough, get closer. If the shutter speed is too slow, it lets ambient light in which is green. The flash needs to be close so the water doesn't absorb strobe light and also turn it green. If you shoot in RAW you can correct some of the colour to get back to the right colour balance but it helps to be close to start with.
     
  9. Ryan Neely

    Ryan Neely Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Akeley, MN USA
    83
    25
    18
    I hesitate to post this because I don't want to diverge too much from the original topic, but I feel compelled to correct [what I understand to be] an inaccuracy.

    ISO is a systemic control. It controls the sensitive of you sensor to light. All light. Using it as a means of balancing ambient light to strobe light might work in limited circumstances, but eventually you'll discover that your strobe is being affected as well.

    Your aperture controls the exposure of your strobe because the light from your strobe moves so fast that your shutter is fully open during the entire duration of the strobe firing.

    Since this is the case, your shutter speed controls the ambient exposure (all elements not lit by the strobe ... like shadows).

    Since ISO controls the sensitivity of your sensor, using it to adjust ambient exposure of shadows will also adjust the strobe exposure of your highlights. It affects your entire exposure both strobe and ambient light.

    Shooting RAW may allow you to dial back those over-exposed strobe highlights from using this technique, but a better practice would be to use to appropriate tool first (if at all possible).
     
  10. Chris Ross

    Chris Ross Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Sydney Australia
    378
    126
    43
    ISO does not in fact change the sensitivity of your sensor, it changes the amplification of the signal to be absolutely correct. I did not make it entirely clear, however, as you said ISO is a tool that effects both flash and ambient exposure and you need to move it around to get in the right ball park to then use aperture for flash and shutter speed for ambient because you run into the barrier of flash sync speed. The OP had ISO on auto when this is set to auto what tends to happen is ISO is driven up to get the ambient light exposure "correct" making the pics green. You need to select a lowish ISO so you you can pull back ambient light and allow the strobe light to dominate.

    How low you need to go depends on the aperture; f5.6 might be what you want on a 1" sensor but you probably have f16-22 on a full frame sensor. At f16-22 you probably reach full power on the flash and need to boost ISO to get correct exposure. At f5.6 you probably need to lower the ISO to get exposure correct within the limitations of the flash sync speed. Once you are in right ball park, then you use shutter speed for BG and aperture for flash exposure and leave ISO alone.

    Under this scheme it works best if everything is on manual.
     
    Ryan Neely likes this.

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