Night Photography

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Night Photography

October 13, 2011 - 23:25

Night diving is the ultimate for many divers. Underwater photography without light is challenging, but with a few additional pieces of camera equipment and special techniques you can master this as well.

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All living creatures, and especially crustaceans, which leave their dwellings in the dark, are best captured with close-up or macro photography. Sleeping fishes can often be approached by inching closer and closer until you are just a few centimetres away. This gives you the opportunity to get close-up images of their eyes and fins, which, during daylight, are virtually impossible. Many UW-photographers ask me if flashing strobes will disturb a sleeping fish. Good news! It is scientifically proven that sleeping fish are not disturbed by strobes. They don’t seem to notice and continue to sleep peacefully.

Close-up or macro

Fishes that are active during the night are, on the other hand, much more difficult to photograph. Even catching them with your light could scare them off. I’ll give you a small tip though; the lights from a diving boat often attract predators such as barracudas and garfish. To get a good shot of these fishes, simply sneak up on them from the shadow side.

In general, photographers should always be alert at any time. Combined with luck, this will get you the best night time images, for example, of octopuses and eels when they catch their prey.

As photo subjects during a night dive are often very small, most of your photography will be close-up or macro. On cameras with viewfinders (analog or digital), you can use close-up lenses. When using SLR cameras, it is best to use lenses with 50 to 30-degree angels.


Skip your wide angel lenses for night diving—except if you are going to capture very close up images within the 25 to 40 cm range. You don’t have any daylight to take into consideration. Instead, you need to make your strobes fill the whole frame and point exactly at the object. The best way to do this is to attach a small pilotlight onto the strobe and use this to aim. Some strobes even have a built-in a pilot light. This shouldn’t be stronger than 10W and last a minimum of one hour. Additionally, the strobe should be able to release at least 50 flashes at full power. If the strobe fails to deliver at this level, you are in danger of maybe loosing out on your shots.


The most important prerequisite for making good underwater night photography is to be 100 percent ready. The camera settings should always be preset for the expected subject matter. Photographers who have to fumble with their settings or make tedious adjustments to the strobe arms will definitely loose their chance to capture the subject. Always have a small flashlight on ...


Originally published

on page 84

X-Ray Mag #26

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