Underwater Macro photography is about creating images where marine life looks big and detailed. This requires specific equipment and techniques, which you can all learn about in this Course.
Subjects and Equipment covered in this Course
How small is “small”? Let’s clarify what sort of subject matter and equipment you will learn to work with in this Course:
- Really small animals (less than 5 cm / 2 inches in length), photographed with a narrow lens, typically producing less than 60 degrees diagonal field of view. This is what I call real macro.
- Bigger subjects (up to 30-40cm / 1 foot long), still photographed with a narrow lens, up-close. Typically there’s only a fraction of the subject that fits in the frame, and this is what I call close-up photography or fish portraits.
You will find that the techniques and artistic considerations which apply to real macro and close-up photography are essentially the same, so for simplicity I will just use the word “Macro” from now on. If I cover knowledge applicable only to specific subject sizes, I will call it out as I go.
With some macro-sized subjects, you can get close enough to photograph them with a very wide lens, such as a fisheye lens. This type of underwater imagery – called Close Focus Wide Angle (CFWA) – is not covered in this Macro Course, as it relies on very different equipment and technique. However, CFWA is fully covered in our Wide-Angle Course.
5 reasons why I love taking macro photos underwater?
Are you unsure whether macro photography is your thing? I have a sweet tooth for wide-angle myself, but here are 5 reasons why I switch to macro on a regular basis:
- You can reveal details of marine life which the general public, and even some divers, are not conscious about.
- It is easy to find subjects: even on dive sites where marine life is scarce or large subjects aren’t letting you close enough, smaller subjects tend to be more approachable, and there is always the option to photograph details of fixed fauna or flora.
- You can work in lower visibility: with the shallower depth of field that we typically have in macro, less backscatter is going to show-up in photos.
- Macro is workable with simple photographic equipment. I do most of my macro work with a single strobe and you can produce fantastic shots with a compact camera.
- It’s easier to get the subject to stand-out from its background and create more eye-catching images.
All-in-one, it’s easier to get a great macro shot than a great wide-angle shot, making macro more accessible to beginners in Underwater Photography.
Watch the video for an introduction of the course content with illustrative photos, or read-on for an overview of Course’s content.
The Underwater Macro Course is split into 7 lessons, which you can take at your own pace, in the order that suits you best:
- Simple Recipe for a Beautiful Macro: I said macro is easier to learn for beginners and I mean it! In this lesson I explain how to setup your camera and strobe(s) to easily create a good-looking underwater macro photo. For once, I will not explain the “Why”, I will just give you a simple recipe to follow, you can learn the “Why” in the other lessons.
- Magnification & Equipment: as stated above, Macro is about making small things look big. “How big” is measured by what we call “magnification ratio”, and this lesson explains how you can get higher magnification, and what sort of equipment you need for that.
- Camera Settings for Macro: as you get closer to your subject, you will have to adjust your exposure parameters, each time you make a significant change on shooting distance. Take this lesson to learn how to pick your camera settings for underwater macro.
- Strobe Positioning Essentials for Macro: lighting is a headache for many underwater photographers, but you can learn how to position your lights for macro, to avoid or minimise backscatter and hot spots.
- Subject & Background Choices: some subjects are going to work better at creating a stunning macro photo, but you also have to think about which Background will complement the subject in your composition. A good background choice can make or break a photo, so you should consider them together, and this is covered in this lesson.
- Getting the Eyes Right for Portraits: Macro photography is obviously great at producing portraits, but for a portrait to really work, you have to pay attention to how you photograph the subject eyes or antennas. There is more to it than just getting the eye sharp, so here is a lesson to teach you how to take actual stunning portraits, rather than just ID shots.
- Mastering Bokeh & Shallow Depth of Field: the closer you get to your subject, the more blur you’ll get in the photo. As photographers we like to call that blur “Bokeh” and it can be used to create nice dreamy macro shots. Take this lesson to learn more ways to differentiate your artistry.
To make the most of this Macro course, it’s best if you understand exposure parameters (shutter speed, aperture, ISO), which you can learn in our Underwater Camera Settings course.
If you’re very new to photography, I recommend you also look at our Introduction course, where you can learn composition (how to frame an underwater photo) and how to effectively self-critique your photos.
Equipment-wise, you need a compact camera, a DSLR or mirrorless cameras. Macro, especially what I have called “real macro” is much harder on a GoPro or smartphone. Also, you will need one artificial light, preferably a strobe, but a torch can work too, although it will limit a lot the sort of subjects and situations you can work with.