Animal portraits can often be tricky photographs to achieve, but with the added challenge of creating underwater photos, it can often seem impossible to get close enough to get the authentic and colorful images you envision.
Not only do diving conditions complicate the process, but they also make it impossible to stay still. Changing tides, currents, and visibility means that both you and your camera are always on the move, often scaring away the creatures that you are trying to photograph. In spite of all these issues, there are still many ways that you can simplify the process, and some of them might not be what you expect.
Understand Your Subject
It can be frustrating to both find and photograph underwater creatures, as many are masters of camouflage and those that are not can move at speeds you could never compete with. Something which will massively improve your underwater portrait photography realizes the importance of knowing about your subject. Getting to know your subject will prepare you for when you meet them and help you approach them in a non-threatening and proactive way.
Try to Get Closer
When shooting on an underwater macro lens, you usually have to get extremely close to achieving a good photograph. This can become problematic when your subjects are either afraid of you, or skilfully hiding amongst luscious corals, kelp, or the shadows of a rocky ledge. Getting close enough for a beautiful portrait shot is often a tedious waiting game, but there are a few tricks that can speed up the process.
Capture the Personality
When photographing underwater, it’s essential to remember this purpose when finding a subject to photograph. Which creature is holding eye contact with you? Which one looks like it’s smiling slightly? These factors are the making of a kind portrait photograph: an image that essentially makes the viewer feel something more emotive than just intrigue.
As frustrating as it is, we have no control over the underwater environment. There will still be some dives where the wildlife is only not cooperating at all and others where every other diver saw a sea creature that you had been searching for, but it somehow evaded you.
Beautiful portraiture is about capturing a candid moment with your subject, and this has to be on their terms.