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10 Tips for Taking Amazing Underwater Photos in Costa Rica

Tamarindo photographer, Costa Rica photographer, Costa Rica family photos, Costa Rica underwater photography tipsBlog by Tamarindo Family Photos

Here are my beginner tips on how to take amazing underwater photos in Costa Rica.

1. Buy a solid underwater camera housing.

Read reviews online and find something decent. I use a Canon G10, which is an above-water camera, with an amazing housing that I got for about $250 new on Amazon. This case has lasted me over 5 years and I really don’t take very good care of it. Make sure to keep the weird plastic thing that comes with it – that’s the diffusor and it’s VERY IMPORTANT.

Tamarindo photographer, Costa Rica photographer, Costa Rica family photos

2. Learn when to use flash

If you’re scuba diving, you’re going to want to use the flash when you are very close to your subject and deeper than say, 15 feet (depending on how good visibility is on a given day). If you are far away from your subject, flash is pretty much useless unless you’ve invested hundreds or thousands of dollars in off-camera strobes. When you can’t use flash, try to be still and not shake the camera. Snorkelers probably won’t have to worry about flash – you’ll likely be close enough to the surface (and the bright Costa Rican sunlight) that you can get away with no flash.

3. Be close to your subject. Very close.

The closer you are to your subject, the less likely there will be “backscatter” (little flecks of particles in the water the interrupt your photo).

4. Start with Macro

Don’t start out trying to photograph fast-swimming mantas, sharks or sea turtles. Start with blennies and anemonies and starfish – things that don’t move. Put your camera on “macro” mode if you have that setting and go to town.

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5. Start setting your camera to P mode

Program mode will set the shutterspeed and aperture for you. All you have to do is control whether or not there is flash.

6. Set your white balance to “Underwater”

That is, if your camera has that setting. If you don’t, set it to auto and try to mess with it later in Lightroom. Which brings us to our next tip…

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7. Process your photos in Lightroom

No offense, but your photos are going to look like crap unless you process them in the computer. Unless you have a $15,000 setup with off-camera strobes, this is true for even the most experienced photographers. I use Lightroom, and the first thing I do with all underwater photos is adjust the white balance. Pick the dropper tool and drop it on something that is supposed to be black, white or grey. Then tinker with the sliders until it starts to look how you want it.

8. Shoot in RAW

If you shot in RAW, you’ll have much more flexibility when it comes to exposure and range when you go to process your beautiful underwater photos.

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9. Shoot in bright daylight

Try to shoot when the sun is at its brightest.

8. Shoot in RAW  If you shot in RAW, you’ll have much more flexibility when it comes to exposure and range when you go to process your beautiful underwater photos, Cocos Island

10. Go somewhere AMAZING

This photo was taken at Cocos Island. It doesn’t get much more amazing than that. If you take pictures in your dirty backyard swimming pool, you probably won’t walk away with anything terribly compelling. Go somewhere awesome, where you’re going to see abundant wildlife.

Photos by: Tamarindo Family Photos

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