Underwater photography using white balance

Underwater photography using white balance

If you are new to underwater photography, you may find that using natural light, your pictures are coming out with a blue/green hue to them and the true colours are being lost. That’s a problem easy to fix by learning how to manually set the White Balance on your camera.

The reason for adjusting the White Balance is to get the colours in your images as accurate as possible. As water is much denser than air, light behaves differently underwater, affecting the colours as they appear underwater. Water absorbs different colours in light at different rates. Red is the first colour wavelength to be lost, disappearing altogether by about 3 metres, as light is absorbed. Then orange, yellow and so on. This means, that the deeper you go, things will appear bluer and greener. By manually setting the White Balance underwater, you will compensate for colours that have been lost.

Depending on your camera, you can change the White Balance by choosing from the list of predetermined settings, or shifting the White Balance from blue to red on the scale, or by manually setting it yourself. It is highly recommended to set manually your White Balance. This will allow you to vary the White Balance with depth.

To set the manual White Balance correctly underwater, you need to point it and set it to something that is white, or neutral. It’s recommended to set your White Balance on the sand, you will get more even, natural colours. It is a good idea to have a white slate with you at all times, if there is no sand available then this will work.

It is really important to remember not to use the manual White Balance setting when photographing into direct sunlight, or when using a flash or strobe. This is because sunlight, flash and strobes also add red. Your resulting image will be predominantly pink/red in tone.

For a good white balance shot the following should be taken into consideration:

The position of the sun. As on the surface you ideally either want the sun behind you, or to the side of you.
Good separation between the subject and the background. Choose your background carefully; a blue background works really well!!!
Get close, and then, get closer!!!! for a sharp foreground!
Being careful to position yourself, making sure not to disturb the seabed, as this can frighten other sea creatures and also cause a cloud of backscatter, making it impossible to take your photograph.
Watch your buoyancy; you need to have excellent buoyancy skills. Breaking corals or disturbing the environment is not an option. Being aware of your surroundings at all times and keeping your body away from the reef.