On this blog I try to give tips and advice on how to shoot different creatures, some can be elusive and shy others bold and easy to approach but one thing is unavoidable, to photograph them you need to travel where they live. On today’s blog, I’ll talk about one of the most common subject, a diver, one you will see on every dive, your dive buddy.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
A diver swims along the reef

The Challenge:

Photographing divers is relatively easy however the most difficult part is finding someone to model for you. If you are diving with a group of photographers you can agree to take turns as a model. Otherwise, you can take pictures of your dive buddy or other divers on your boat. Just remember to ask permission before the dive.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
Diver silhouette with sunbeams.

Once we are underwater communication is limited and is a good idea to have a good chat with your dive buddy/model before the dive, discuss the kind of images you want to take and agree in a set of signals that you both understand to help to position your model in the right place.

Close-ups can be relatively easy but often the eyes of the diver are obscured by the mask or the diver is simply not looking at you and that can ruin your shot.

Generally speaking, bubbles are distracting elements in most pictures but when shooting divers faces they can be interesting adding a level of dynamism.

Tips and tricks for success:

Divers look much better when swimming parallel to the camera but try to avoid things such as frog kick and arms stretched in front. A long straight kick and hands relaxed next to the body are much better to prevent images where divers look like windmills.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
Divers swimming parallel to the camera look much better than swimming straight to you.

Try to avoid shooting straight at a diver. Unless you are shooting close-ups, frontal shots make the diver look like a shapeless blob

Tell your model to look at his or hers reflection on your dome port, this will help them to prevent flying limbs and if you have discussed the picture before it will help to position in the right place.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
Straight legs on a diver are much more pleasing. in this case, the diver shape follows the contour of the table coral.

When photographing people make sure they are in the foreground where your strobes can light them correctly or far in the background where they become almost a silhouette. If a diver is not close enough your strobes won’t be able to light it properly and will be a large poorly lit element in your shot.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
Diver looking at Clownfish. The model is close enough for my strobes to properly light her face.

When including a diver on a scene such as a wreck or a reef, make sure you have your shot ready before the diver moves into the shot, you may not have much time to adjust your settings.

Lens Considerations:

A wide-angle lens is ideal to photograph divers, will allow you to get close so you can get sharp clear images and good lighting however when using very wide lenses and especially a fish-eye, you can get some distortion. Prevent misshaped divers by positioning them towards the centre of the frame.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
Positioning a diver in the centre of the frame prevent awkward distortions.

Divers Closeups:

Divers close-ups can be fun and you will be able to practice some fun effects such as swirls or pans. When approaching this kind of shots make sure you are able to light the eyes properly avoiding dark shadows inside the diver’s mask. These photos work much better when the model wears a mask with a clear skirt, the lighter silicon will let light from your strobes through.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
Diver face with bubbles.

Eye positioning is also important, if the diver is looking straight at the lens it will look a bit strange, instead ask your model to look towards the camera but to direct the eyes slightly over and to the side. Otherwise, ask your model to look directly at a point of interest in the frame to guide the viewers’ attention to a specific place.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
The diver’s eyes on this picture guide your attention at the stalactite formation on the left.

When to shoot divers:

We can shoot divers in almost every dive but there are some situations where shooting your underwater companions is easier than others. On trips such as the Shark Quest Photography Divers normally jump together and stay close to the boat, usually on a line waiting for the sharks to come. This is a perfect situation to start photographing divers, you will have time to play with settings, try different techniques and also to sort out your settings for when the sharks come.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
Divers wait on a shallow water safety line for the sharks to come near. This is a great opportunity to take pictures of divers and to set your camera for when the sharks come.

A great moment to photograph divers is when they are jumping in the water or about to finish the dive, these situations make for great action shots.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
A diver jumping from the dive boat

Divers make for excellent compositional elements when shooting dramatic and colourful reefs, caves and when taking pictures of wrecks and give a great sense of scale and depth.

Scuba Travel, Fishinfocus, Mario Vitalini, Divers,
On both these shots, the divers help to give a sense of depth and scale.

Mario hosts a number of photography workshops throughout the year with Scuba Travel. From the Red Sea, Indonesia, Caribbean and more… you can read more about Marios escorted trips here 
For UK 1:1 courses you can see more about Mario here