In order to create images with point-and-shoot digital cameras that are a step above snap-shots, we have to use the same techniques used with DSLR cameras. By using a few different techniques, one can get outstanding results no matter what size camera is used.
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Get close wide-angle
This is the most important rule in underwater photography. When you think you are too close, get closer. Water is denser than air, and even the clearest water has particles floating in it. So, the less water we put between our lens and our subject the better. It is best to never be more than two feet (0.6m) from the subject. The closer one is to the subject the better the images.
So, how does a photographer fit a large underwater scene in the frame? He or she needs to use the widest lens possible. Most point-and-shoot cameras have lenses around 28mm to 24mm. Since everything looks 25 percent larger and closer underwater, this is not wide enough. Photographers need housings that allow them to use accessory lenses.
Many point-and-shoot housings have 67mm or 46mm filter threads on the lens port. So, by using an auxiliary wide-angle lens, photographers can move in close and still photograph a large area. Wide–angle lenses are impractical on some camera housing rigs due to vignetting.
These rigs make use of auxiliary domes. The dome corrects for the size distortion that happens underwater. This way the camera will have the same angle of view underwater as it does on the surface.
In most cases, this equipment will not have an angle of view as wide as a DSLR with a prime wide-angle or fisheye lens. The trick here is that one has to pick subjects to match the lens. If one concentrates on smaller subjects and scenes, one will get better results.
Get close macro
Small subjects are much easier to photograph with a point-and-shoot camera. All point-and-shoot cameras have a macro mode, so one can move in and document all the tiny creatures on the reef. If the housing allows one to attach accessories, a close-up lens could be helpful with really tiny subjects. It is best to be four to eight inches (10-20cm) away from the subject. This way one has room for lighting and is less likely to frighten the subject.
When working close, depth of field has to be considered. Because point-and-shoot cameras have lenses with very short focal lengths, photographers usually are able to keep the whole subject in focus. If a photographer has aperture control, he or she will want to stop the lens down to keep everything sharp. Most of these cameras will only stop down to f/8.
RAW files are uncompressed files that capture more color tones. When working with RAW files, photographers will be able to make better corrections including color in post-production. Since these files are larger than compressed jpeg’s, many point-and-shoot cameras are slow when shooting RAW. So, photographers have to decide if having more control is worth losing the speed.
Correcting color in available light
As one goes deeper underwater, one loses the warm colors in the spectrum. Warm salt water acts as a blue filter over the lens, while cold and fresh water acts like a green filter. Using the camera’s custom white balance setting along with adding filters can bring back the subject’s natural color. This is usually effective in water no deeper than 80 feet (25m).
Many housing manufactures make either screw-on or push-on filters for both blue and green water. Magic filters are gel type filters that are easy to cut. They can be cut to size and placed inside the housing in front of the lens.
When using a filter, it is important to make sure that one is not using any artificial light. So, don’t forget to turn off the camera’s built-in flash.
Many point-and-shoot cameras have an underwater white balance. This sets up a digital blue water filter. Aquarium mode can be used as a digital green water filter. Not all water has the same colorcast. The color will also change with how deep you are and the time of day. So, these filters and underwater modes will give images a general but not perfect color correction. As a quick easy fix, underwater mode is effective.
All digital cameras have a custom white balance feature. By pointing the camera at a neutral colored object, capturing color data, the camera will correct the colorcast caused by the lighting and environment. This is a more accurate method of correcting color, but takes more skill than adding a filter. It is important to fill the entire frame with the object and not to cast a shadow. Putting neutral colored duct tape on a fin makes for a convenient target. One can also use a large slate. Using a custom white balance and a physical filter together will give us the best available light color.
When photographers use filtering and white balance techniques, they are correcting the background and the subject. So the backgrounds in these images will not have the same vibrant blue or green color one gets when using strobes. The exposure value of the background and the subject will be close. This will flatten out images, and they will have less contrast. These available light techniques are suited to certain subjects, including wreck scenes and are effective in less than stellar visibility. ...
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