My first camera was a Canon S95 and I then used a Canon G16. I’ve learnt a lot through trial and error.
After shooting with ambient light for almost 12 months, I felt I had mastered all there was to know about the balance between AV, ISO and camera speeds and purchased my first strobe. Learning to take underwater photos is a huge learning curve and the best way to learn is to shoot, shoot, shoot!
Settings Under the Menu menu:
Please note the options available will vary according to the mode you have your camera set on. I usually shoot in M 90% of my time or AV the rest.
AF Frame: Centre
AF Frame Size: Normal
Digital Zoom: Off
If you have it on, it will create noise in your photos.
AF-Point Zoom: On
This enlarges the central focussing area when the subject comes into focus.
Servo AF: Off
Turn this off so that you can turn the above on.
AF-Assist Beam: Off
This is useless as the beam is blocked by the housing.
MF-Point Zoom: On
This enlarges the centre area when shooting in manual focus.
Safety MF: On
Refines manual focus when shutter is half pressed.
Flash Mode: Manual
So that you can set the flash to fire using the on/off option button on the camera.
Flash Output: Medium
Set this so that it is just strong enough to fire the strobe (usually medium). If you find your photos are too over-exposed, set to medium or minimum. Maximum is very high and usually leads to over exposed images. Note, there is no pre-flash in Manual so you cannot use TTL on your strobe whilst in manual (see below).
Shutter Sync: Set to second curtain, it gives a more natural look to moving objects like fish.
Red-Eye Correction: Off
Red-Eye lamp: Off
Safety FE: Off
ISO Auto Settings:
Max ISO Speed: 400
Rate of Change: Fast
Safety Shift: Off
Review: 3 sec
Review info: detailed
Shows hisogram and flashes where image is overexposed
Blink Detection: On
Image Stabiliser – IS: Continuous
This can help when shooting at slower speeds.
Set Shortcut Button to White Balance.
The button on the back of the camera with the S can then be used to do manual white balance. Point the camera at something white (like a slate, white fins or even the palm of your hand), press this button and it will adjust the camera’s white balance for you. Very useful when shooting without a strobe or onboard flash.
Press this and it will save all the settings above to the C (custom settings) on your mode dial.
Continuous AF: On
This allows the camera to set the focus continuously, without having to half press the shutter. It will help speed up focussing.
ISO: 80 – 100 in bright lighting, 200 in darker (cloudy / deeper) conditions.
If you find your photos are too overexposed, drop the ISO. The higher the ISO, the more grainy the photos will be and if unnecessarily high, this could result in overexposed photos.
White Balance: Set to Auto (AWB) if shooting with a strobe, otherwise underwater if shooting in shallow and light conditions, If you are shooting in RAW, all can be fixed in post processing using the eye-dropper tool. It is, however, always better to get the perfect shot in camera.
My Colours: Off
You will not see the display after you;ve taken an image if you set to multiple shots.
Light Metering: Evaluative
Sets the brightness based on the overall scene. You can play around with these settings but they don’t really make much difference.
ALWAYS shoot in RAW so that you can correct the white balance in post processing if necessary, especially when using ambient light (i.e. not using a flash).
NB: Using strobe TTL and Canon Cameras!!!
Canon Cameras do not pre-flash in Manual mode (M) so TTL on your strobe will not work with the camera set to Manual. You will therefore need to put your strobe in Manual and adjust the strength yourself to get the correct exposure. I shoot a lot of my images in AV, where the camera does pre-flash. Shooting in AV, you are able to set the aperture, the camera sets the speed. You can set the strobe to TTL and this works just great.
Not using an external strobe or on-board flash:
Set your camera to manual, set the ISO, AV and speed to let in enough light and freeze motion. Shooting like this is the best way to learn about the balance between light and camera settings. I spent the first 12 months shooting without a strobe or on-board flash and got some really great pics on shallower dives (to about 15m). No backscatter either! In this case you simply HAVE to shoot raw, set the ISO to 200, the speed to no less than 125 and the AV to as low as possible.
Now that you know how your camera works, why not sign up for one of my Underwater Photography courses and learn how to take your underwater photography to the next level. Learn all about how to balance light using your camera and strobe; how to take great photos without disturbing our marine life; the best angles and settings for awesome images and much, much more.