Compact Cameras: Introduction and Outlook:

Yes!!! You got it. Finally you're a diver now. A diver, overwhelmed by the beautiful underwater world. You want to hug the reef and never get off again. But air is limited as the holidays are. You feel the urgent need to take the memories home. You have the urgent need to share them with your friends. You have the urgent need to take pictures underwater.

Your first camera? A compact camera! Maybe you already have got one and buy only the housing. Perfect! The next dives are waiting!

But watching your first pictures, you realise that they are not like the ones you see in the dive magazines. Or at Facebook groups like Underwater Macro photographers. What to do now?

This monthly series about compact cams is addressing to beginner as well as to ambitious intermediates, who like to impress the big crowd. Starting today with "Limits are Challenges", we will talk about following topics in the future: Take the lead (control your settings); More limits and more challenges; Art? Can compacts do art? Several chapters about composition; Accessories and of course some basic Photoshop technique.

Limits are Challenges:

Of course, most of all the beautiful published pictures are made with a DSLR. But compact cams can make fantastic shots, too. We remember the World Champion 2010 at underwaterphoto-, Brian Mayes, who shot his winning pictures with a compact camera and only the internal flash!

By the way: They were all macros. Why? We learn later.

So in this first chapter we have a look at the limits and how to deal with them.

The first question is: What do you want your picture for?

There is nothing wrong with shooting a blueish manta ray in blueish water in front of a blueish reef. Having fun with it and glue this picture into the log or print it in the holiday's fotobook! The most important thing in underwater photography is: Have fun with it!

Limit 1: The internal flash

Light is diminishing very fast each meter you descend and you have to compensate it with flash light to get the true colours backs. The light is not diminishing equal over all colours. The first colour which disappears is red, the last colour remaining is blue. That's why most beginners pictures are blue in blue and mostly underexposed (if not, probably the pics aren't sharp because of the slow shutter speed. But that's a topic for the next time).

The time will come when you wish some colours in your picture. With flash light, you can get the real colours back and of course, the subject would be as bright as it should be. You need to flash. Doesn't matter if you already have an external strobe or only the internal. Set your flash mode to "forced flash" instead of "auto-flash". Go close to the subject as flashes don't reach far. this means 50cm (20 inch) or closer for an internal flash. Use the macro mode ("flower" button) to go really close.


Wide angle or macro? Stand-alone compact cams are best for macro shooting. To succeed with wide angle we need accessories or doing compromises.

Start to count your money:

External flashes will be on your wishlist soon. You've got already? Very good! Within your first shootings you realise fast, that you produce "snowflakes" also called backscatter. They appear when your flashlight hit the particles in the water frontally and produce the "full moon effect". In a later stage of learning you avoid them by placing the external flash as far away from your camera as possible. Strobe positions will be discussed later this year. But happily, macro photography isn't hit that much by backscatter probs.


We're discussing more limits during the next issues. Next month we are taking the lead and learn to control our camera and we are facing more limits to handle. Get your manual ready by then!

Description for the picture:

What a pity the flash didn't hit the frogfish. Going much closer and using "forced flash" would have solved the problem of blueish froggy in blueish habitat in front of blueish background. To get rid of such pictures is the goal of this compact camera series.

Taken with Olympus C50 - F/2.8 1/125 ISO 80


Photo of the week
By:  Henry Jager
Week No  :  
Winner Monthly Competition
By:  Brad Pryde‎
Theme : Snoot Lighting
Month : December
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