Great Pictures Made Easy

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  • Great Pictures Made Easy

    A Guide to Underwater Photography

    Capture the Magic - What do you want to capture with your digital camera? What attracts you to underwater photography? What scenes are so breathtaking that people say this is unbelievable; I wish I had a camera to show this to my friends?

    You will encounter strange creatures, see incredible effects of light and colors, explore wrecks, coral and plants that appear as if they were from another planet, while you float effortlessly without gravity.

    And after years of adventures with your SeaLife camera you will look back at your photos and videos, and it may be only then that you discover the real treasure you found with your camera: You have learned to use your eyes to see and experience the underwater world, one of the greatest miracles on earth.

    As the manufacturers of SeaLife, we believe that an easy to use underwater camera will help millions of divers and non-divers to experience and see a part of our world which is essential to our survival. And we hope that you will enrich and enlighten your life by capturing valuable impressions in the underwater world with your SeaLife Camera.

    Photo by Karl Lauderback with the ReefMaster Mini Photo by Nadia Aly with the SeaLife DC1400

    Photo by Annie Crawley

  • Table of Contents

    I. Know your basic camera settings

    II. Underwater basics a. Light and color underwater b. Effects of water refraction c. Backscatter or Marine Snow

    III. Two ways to bring colors back into your pictures

    a. Using the SeaLife Digital Pro Flash external flash accessory b. Using Sea Mode underwater color correction

    IV. How to take underwater pictures without optional External Flash

    a. Set the cameras scene mode to SEA Mode [or Snorkel mode] b. Using the built-in flash c. Adjusting the White Balance setting

    V. How to take underwater pictures with the optional flash accessory

    a. Setting the cameras scene mode to Ext Flash b. Exposure Control: Adjusting the camera for darker or brighter pictures. c. Exposure control Adjusting the external flash brightness: d. Using a diffuser for better Close-up pictures e. Edge Lighting: f. Color and White Balance when using an external flash accessory

    VI. Focusing tips for taking sharp pictures

    VII. Basic tips on taking great pictures

    a. Control you buoyancy b. Crystal clear water c. Shoot up, not down d. Pictures of your buddy e. Framing for your subject f. Silhouettes against the bright water surface

    VIII. Underwater video

    IX. Using SPY Mode

    X. Take your photography to the next level

  • I. Know your basic camera settings

    This guide will teach you the basics of underwater photography and how to take great underwater pictures with your SeaLife camera. Before you start, you should read the cameras instruction manual and become familiar with the basic camera settings and button controls.

    Your SeaLife camera includes a printed English instruction manual, with the instructions translated in 6 languages available for download on the SeaLife website English, Spanish, German, Italian, French and Dutch.

    Download the Instruction Manuals here

  • II. Underwater basics

    There are a few important differences between underwater and land photography that you should know.

    a. Light and Color Water is about 1000 times denser than air. As you descend deeper into the water, the light conditions become darker. The water absorbs red, orange and yellow colors which makes everything look blue.

    The above picture demonstrates the effect water has on light and color as depth increases. That is why many underwater pictures turn out blue. There are a couple of ways to restore lost colors, which are explained later in this guide.

    FYI: Coral, sponges and most other underwater sea creatures are actually very colorful. Brilliant reds, vivid orange and bright yellows highlight the underwater world. These red, orange and yellow colors actually help to camouflage the sea creatures. Since red and yellow colors are absorbed by the water, the sea creatures appear colorless unless you bring a light with you and uncover the hidden treasure of colors.

  • b. Effects of water refraction Water has a magnifying effect. Objects underwater appear 33% larger and closer than they actually are. It tricks you into underestimating your shooting distance. One important rule for achieving colorful and sharp underwater pictures is to keep your shooting distance within 6ft/2m.

    This Angelfish appears 2ft/60cm away but is actually 3ft/1m away

    This fish appears inside of 6ft/2m, but is actually 8ft/2.4m away


    The SeaLife Fisheye Wide Angle Lens compensates the underwater magnifying effect.

    The Fisheye Lens allows you to get closer to the subject and still fit everything in the picture. Photo by Dan Johnson, Loves Park Scuba & Snorkel

  • c. Backscatter / Marine snow No matter how clear it may look underwater, there are always plankton and tiny particles suspended in the water. You may not see the particles with your eyes, but the cameras flash will light them up. Those small white dots you see in underwater pictures are called backscatter or marine snow. Here are two pictures taken with the cameras flash ON and OFF. Notice how the flash picture produces backscatter?

    Cameras built-in flash fires and illuminates backscatter particles

    When the cameras built-in flash is turned off, you dont see the particles

    Underwater flash photography results in the brightest, sharpest most colorful pictures, but that requires an external flash, not the cameras built-in flash.

    The cameras internal flash should be restricted to close-up shooting distances (within 12/30cm) and crystal clear waters. If you do use the cameras internal flash for close-up pictures, we recommend using a flash diffuser.

    DC1400 shown with Flash Diffuser attached

    How to avoid backscatter:

    Avoid using the cameras built-in flash. The built-in flash is very close to the camera lens and illuminates all the particles in front of the lens.

    Use the a SeaLife external flash to reduce backscatter. The external flash reduces backscatter because the flash is located far away from the camera lens.

    Keep your shooting distance to 10% of your visibility. If the visibility is 30ft/10m, limit your shooting distance to 3ft/1m.

    Dont stir up the sand and debris on the bottom. Control your buoyancy.

  • III. Two ways to bring colors back into your pictures

    Remember the part about how water absorbs light and color? Here are two ways to bring back those lost colors.

    a. Use the SeaLife Sea Dragon Flash (Item SL963) or Digital Pro Flash (Item SL961)

    A SeaLife flash will restore lost colors and minimize backscatter. Just remember to keep your shooting distance to within 6ft/2m.

    Taken without flash - image lacks color Taken with flash - note the more vibrant colors

    b. Use one of the SeaLife underwater modes

    If you do not have an external flash accessory, set the SeaLife camera to Dive Mode which will automatically turn the cameras internal flash off. For snorkeling or shallow water set the camera to Snorkel Mode. These underwater modes use a built in color-correction filter to restore lost colors. These color correction modes work well in shallower waters where the light conditions are relatively bright. Images will become more grainy and colorless in darker conditions or depths greater than 50-60 feet in clear water. The external flash accessory is the most effective way to restore color at any depth or ambient light condition.

    Normal underwater picture at 25ft without Dive Mode With Dive Mode color correction - restores lost colors

  • IV. How to take underwater pictures without the optional external flash accessory

    Now that you have learned how water affects underwater pictures and how to restore lost colors, lets learn how to take the best underwater pictures without the external flash accessory. If you are using a SeaLife external flash, skip to the next section.

    a. Set the cameras scene mode to Dive Mode [or Snorkel Mode] When the camera is in Dive Mode, the first thing you will notice is that the viewing image on the LCD display appears red in color. Thats the effect of the underwater color correction filter. Underwater, the viewing image will look natural. In Dive Mode, the camera automatically turns the FLASH OFF to help avoid backscatter.

    Picture taken at 25ft/8m without Dive Mode

    Picture taken at 25ft/8m with Dive Mode

    Snorkel Mode uses less color correction and is ideal for shallow depth.

    b. Built-in Flash setting We recommend that you keep the cameras built-in flash to OFF when taking underwater pictures. If you set the flash to Auto or ON, you will cause backscatter and cancel the Dive Mode color-correction effect.

    c. Adjusting the White Balance Setting The White balance (WB) setting will compensate for

    undesirable color casts, so that white objects appear white in your picture. You can correct for the underwater blue effect by selecting the appropriate WB. The White Balance setting is located in the cameras MENU. The WB options vary from camera to camera, so it really helps to read your cameras instruction manual and become familiar with each setting. Here are some common ones you will find in your SeaLife camera:

    o Auto White Balance The camera will do its best to automatically detect what the correct WB