7 Common Maldives Photo-taking Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

October 8th, 2014

Don’t let your Maldives photos turn out to be duds. Avoid these common blunders and consider these tips for getting the best underwater photos, even as a beginner. Some of these suggestions come from our selected Photographers of the Month, who have proven themselves as masters of capturing the wonders of the Maldives.

Mistake #1 – Blurry or unfocused photos
Fix it with: Control (buoyancy + camera)

One of the most difficult elements of underwater photography is getting a clear and colorful shot. On land, stabilizing at least yourself is fairly easy, while some targets may be on the move. Under the water, however, staying still is not quite as easy as a diver. That’s why buoyancy control is of the upmost importance. Then there is keeping the camera itself immobile enough to get a shot of those slippery targets. Try not to move the camera too quickly after the shot is taken, a short pause will ensure at least one side remains still to capture the moment.

Water clarity can also be an issue with getting sharp, clear photos, but this element is not really under our control. A smaller distance between lens and subject will reduce the amount of distortion (another word). On days with low visibility it might be a time to consider leaving the camera on the boat and just reveling in the experience (see more on this below). Unless, of course, the reduced visibility is attracting manta rays or whale sharks, in which case you might not want to miss that photo op.

Mistake #2 – Not enjoying the experience itself
Fix it with: Forgetting the camera
It’s easy to let the camera get stuck to your hand and watch most of the marine life through your camera lens, while missing out on the feeling of being in the sea among these creatures. On one hand, you don’t want to miss any once-in-a-lifetime moments like when you come face to face with a whale shark or a turtle eating its lunch. Capturing memories and sharing them with others is something we all appreciate. On the other hand, constantly thinking about what to take a photo of impedes your dive experience.

Consider refraining from taking your camera on every single dive by selecting the dives that will likely present the most important photo opportunities. On other dives, just enjoy the ride and take it all in. Alternatively, train yourself to put the camera down once and a while during the dive and resist the temptation to get photos of everything.

lighting on the reef Malcolm Browne 600x399 7 Common Maldives Photo taking Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

The right lighting can bring out the vibrant colors of the reef. Photo: Malcolm Browne

Mistake #3 – Too dark
Fix it with: Balance, artificial light, or filters

Among the top 2 most difficult elements of underwater photography is lighting.
Malcolm Browne suggests using available light and adjusting the white balance as you change depth during the dive. He also uses behind the lens filters from http://www.magic-filters.com, and a camera that produces RAW images delivers good results with minimal processing

If you want to work with more than natural light, invest in a strobe. This could be worth it if night dives and marine photography are going to become a regular activity for you.

Mistake #4 – Partial shots/missed shots
Fix it with: Mastering your camera

Alexander Brown suggests getting really familiar with using the camera with the housing before the dive. Practice underwater and in imperfect conditions if possible so that you’re ready for anything.

Another reason for missing shots is if your camera too cumbersome or complex. The big thing now for active photography is a GoPro or similar camera. Compact, high quality and made for action, these cameras come in different bundles with the accessories for your sport of choice, in this case underwater shooting. Avid photographers may want to stick with a DSLR, but for the Average Joe a GoPro may be a great alternative.

Mistake #5 – Unrealistic expectations
Fix it with: Practice and learning from mistakes

It can be frustrating at first when photos are not turning out how you envision. It could be tempting to give up and let others get the glamour shots, but don’t throw the camera aside just yet.

Jacob Nielsen suggests considering the reality of photography and not to expect all of your shots to be magazine-ready. He describes how despite using a DLSR for years above the water, taking it under the water and adding external lighting was hard – no matter how many books or articles one reads on the subject. He points out that a lot of the shots will be bad, either because of technical problems or because the marine life just doesn’t care about staying still. However, practice makes perfect, and it’s fun to see how you constantly improve.

camouflage scorpionfish malcolm Browne 600x398 7 Common Maldives Photo taking Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

If you don’t keep your eyes focused you might miss things like this camouflaged scorpionfish. Photo: Malcolm Browne

Mistake #6 – Only shooting the obvious
Fix it with: Challenging yourself

Another suggestion from Jacob is to challenge yourself with macro subjects, notoriously the most difficult to shoot. As he describes, getting a big subject like a manta ray in the viewfinder is relatively easy, but tiny critters the hide in the corals that escape even the naked eye are much harder to capture.

Mistake #7 – Running out of storage
Fix it with: Bringing extra memory cards

Extra batteries will also help if one battery decides to no longer work or you don’t have time to charge your battery between shoots.

Practice your photography skills on a last minute trip to the Maldives. Get an unparalleled 2 for 1 diver deal on Leo Blueforce this October. Don’t wait to book as this trip is a one-time-only deal and is only valid for 18-25 October, 2014. For more info and to book, click here.

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