How many times have you wanted a picture of yourself while diving in a beautiful kelp forest, but there is just not a capable or willing underwater photographer around. There is a fun, simple, and effective way of taking your own picture underwater.
To take a self-portrait on land, you have the options of either a timed shutter release where you activate the camera, and then you have a few moments to get into place or a way of remote triggering the shutter. While this is possible underwater, it takes a very sophisticated (and expensive) camera system with the right features, as well as a way of anchoring the camera to the bottom so that it does not drift about in the surge.
A much better alternative for the average photographer is to simply hold the camera at arm’s length, point it at your face and shoot. But there are a few things you should do to maximize the quality of your images.
MAXIMUM WIDE ANGLE
A wide-angle lens is a must—the wider the better. For most good point-and- shoot systems you can purchase a supplemental lens at a reasonable cost. This is a worthwhile investment in many kinds of underwater photography, not just self-portraits. With a wide-angle lens, holding the camera at arm’s length, not only will your face fill the frame but also a large portion of the background, giving a better sense of the underwater setting—kelp forest, coral wall, school of fish, etc. Carefully framed, you can even get another subject in the shot, such as a fish or two.
How do you know what your frame is seeing? Simply look at your reflection in the lens as it faces you and you will have a good idea what the shot will look like. Most wide-angle lenses have a dome port. Your reflection will be somewhat distorted but at least you’ll get an idea what will be included in the frame.
How should you pose? Ultimately, that is up to you but I have a few recommendations. Looking directly into the lens will, especially with the necessary wide-angle lens, aggravate the potential distortion. Pose looking into your reflection of the lens, then look away slightly before tripping the shutter.
If you know you will be taking a self-portrait on your dive, some preparations may be in order. Dry your face and keep it as dry as possible. Try to keep the inside of your mask as dry as possible and free of fogging. Ladies may want to consider make-up. Should you smile? Probably not, as your regulator will just distort your lips and your smile will likely look more like a grimace. And don’t take your regulator out of your mouth to smile! I’m sorry, but it just looks stupid and besides, you will already have your hands full with the camera.
As with most underwater photography you should get low and shoot up. With self-portraits place the camera low, your face above the camera and shoot up. Exposed properly, you stand a much greater chance of a natural blue or green background.
You can go with auto-focus or manual. If auto, you will have to make sure the focus is first locked onto your face, sometimes a difficult proposition. If your camera has manual focus, get a focal range between 18 inches and 4 feet, not difficult to do with a good wide-angle lens. Either way will work but you need to use different techniques.
Your primary concern is proper exposure for your face. The auto exposure on your camera with your strobe will likely do a pretty fair job. It is this background exposure that is a bit more difficult and will make the difference between a boring floating face shot and one in which the subject, you, will be exploring an underwater wonderland. Simply meter on the background, exposing it as best you can. Then adjust your strobe or strobes accordingly. If working in auto, the simplest and easiest technique is to put the sun over your shoulder and take an upward angle with your camera.
Taking your own picture underwater is fun and not difficult. With some proper techniques you will end up with a photo that you can hand out to loved ones.