White Balance Wonders for Beginners

Bumphead Parrotfish at Sipidan Island, Malaysia

It’s so easy when you’re starting out in underwater photography to think that every underwater bell, whistle and accessory is going to help you achieve amazing photos super quickly, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as starting from the beginning, taking it all one fin-stride at a time and really getting to know and practice each setting and their uses.

I literally started (back in 2002 – yikes 😱) with just a tiny Sony Megapixel camera, slowly understanding the use of red filters to show off the colours of our underwater world by replacing red which is lost within the first few feet.

Boxfish with a Cleaner Wrasse

Using your custom white balance function is the easiest way to get started taking beautiful images with minimum fuss. All you need is your camera and a keen eye for the unusual, oh and lots of ambient light to keep your subject sharp and in focus.

So how do you get started? All you need is a white card, or simply use the back of your hand or a passing white tank or scuba fin. Simply choose the custom white balance icon in your white balance menu (which looks something like this image below), pointing it against something white and your images will lose their blue colour cast and sumptuous vibrant colours will appear.

Make sure you shoot with the light behind you, choose a fast enough ISO to keep your subject sharp – 100 for a still subject, 200 for a faster one, or 400 for one in darker waters. Make sure your flash is switched off to avoid pink subjects – but don’t forget that pink can be a creative addition to some of our subjects!

Use your macro/telescope mode if you are within a few feet of your subject, which I did with this boxfish above.

Wide-angle lenses are fabulous tools for larger subjects such as schooling fish, reef scenes, divers, turtles and so much more underwater loveliness. Just remember to get close to your subject, respecting the wildlife and paying attention to your buoyancy.

White Tip Reef Shark Hunting

Finally a huge advantage of shooting with your white balance feature instead of external strobes and video lights, means there is zero risk of these lights affecting your subject’s behaviour or damaging their eyes if they are particularly tiny, eg seahorses.

Always remember to recalibrate your camera with your white card as you ascend approx every 5 meters, I usually use it at a maximum depth of about 20 meters but in temperate, darker water this may be less.

It’s also a very useful tool to add colour to your underwater video too 😊

Turtle Resting on the Reef

Hope this helps you to get started and if you have any questions just let me know xx

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