Flash Your Skills with Underwater Photography in the Maldives

January 7th, 2013

Anytime we go on holiday or there’s a special occasion, out come the cameras. It’s no different with scuba diving in the Maldives.  Whether it’s motivated by wanting to share these moments with friends or a bit of proof you were there, or just for the love of photography, the marine world can become a glamorous photo shoot set.  This set is unique with a range of models, with large and small sizes and everything in between.   

Not only are there a range of models but a range of types of photographers.  For the holiday goers or those who dive only rarely, most consider disposable or compact cameras with waterproofing features (disposables don’t seem to be recommended though).  Then there’s a whole range of cameras and accessories for the avid diver who wants to capture the most stunning shots, challenging themselves with each dive to get more and better scenes.

Suggestions for Success

No matter the situation, follow these considerations and suggestions to bring home some super shots of your time around the atoll reefs:

First of all, practice with the camera (in the housing if you’ve gone with this option) around home before taking it underwater and get your diving skills down separately before taking the camera with you.  Also, go with a relatively small group if you can and ask about visibility conditions in the water as both will contribute to the likelihood of capturing a good shot.

The Maldives is known as an amazing destination for wide angle photography.  Consider getting a camera with this type of lens to reel in some photos of big fish and reefs of colorful coral.  Past dive photographers in the Maldives suggest destinations like “Fotteyo” at Felidhoo Atoll to take pictures of soft corals, Boduhiti Thila, North Male for manta cleaning station action and Rangali Manta Point, South Ari for the manta version of a night club – you are likely to capture massive dancing manta rays.

In addition to a wide angle lens, having a variety of lenses on hand is a bonus.  Both the fish eye lens and the macro lens will open the doors to those really stunning, impressive shots on which Flikr, Facebook and Pintrest followers will jump on the opportunity to comment. Some compact cameras offer macro and fish eye settings so it may not even be necessary to invest in a professional camera to get those kinds of photos.

School of banner fish Basement Vision 600x336 Flash Your Skills with Underwater Photography in the Maldives

School of banner fish Photo : Basement Vision


In the Maldivian atolls, use that macro lens for those mini-subjects, like scorpion fish and gobies – they may be small subjects but photos can be intense and capture amazing detail.  For a slightly distorted view that may ironically portray the stunning reality, some of the best ‘wow’ shots of underwater creatures are taken with a fish eye lens. Just remember to get close enough for the maximum effect – and that’s easier said than done – sometimes fish seem to ‘know’ and stay just outside the ideal distance.  But aren’t we all a bit camera shy at times?

What can make it difficult to get the right composition, color and lighting are the strong currents that are common in the Maldives, as well as the conditions of visibility and depth.  Some suggest setting the flash fixed as on, so you don’t miss any opportunities and consider getting within at least 12 inches of your (smaller) targets since the water between you and your model obviously affects contrast, color and sharpness. For those with camera housings a powerful strobe is recommended.  If you’re close enough to the surface, sun rays coming down into the water can also add an interesting aspect to your shot.

Where to Look for Photo Ops in the Maldives

Depending on the size and shape of the subjects and the reef, different sorts of photo opportunities will present themselves.  Reports from divers are that Madivaru gets you in front of large schools of fish that the wide angle lens seems to complement – like thousands of bluestriped snappers and Redtooth triggerfishes.  Also, you may spark the curiosity of bignose unicornfishes there when you create some bubbles.

On the other hand, Vilivaru Giri in South Male atoll has been noted for some good macros with the frogfish and ‘nudibranchs’ as well as blennies around the area.  In almost any area you’ll find some great macro photo ops, like these so called ‘Christmas Tree Worms’, photo by Basement Vision.

tree worms Basement Vision 600x398 Flash Your Skills with Underwater Photography in the Maldives

Tree worms Photo by : Basement Vision


Of course you may want to BE IN some of the photos yourself.  It’s important though to be realistic of the type of photos you can get – it’s difficult to get a photo with you and a lone fish, whale or manta thanks to the speed of the fish, currents, and number of fish and onlookers.  You’ll want a diver with some photo taking experience if you’re serious about getting a good picture.  Consider free flowing hair, using eyes to show expression and creating controlled bubbles to add to the shot.

We’ve covered some of the who, what, where and how of Maldives underwater photography – the ‘why’ doesn’t really need any explanation.  It’s obvious that the reefs of the turquoise-blue waters that surround the almost 1200 islands of this unique island nation are full of biodiversity that should be celebrated.  Thanks to the photographers that share such great inspiration and underwater dreams.

Inspired to put your underwater photography skills into practice in the Maldives?  Check out our latest liveaboard offers to get you there.

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