National Geographic News

Yellowtail Snappers, Turks and Caicos Islands

Photograph by Raul Touzon

Be Familiar With Basic Settings

Here are some basic camera settings that will improve your underwater imagery. Remember, in some point-and-shoot systems you might not be able to reach these controls underwater in a fast and efficient manner.

  1. White balance: For most cases put your white balance in daylight mode, especially if you are using flash.
  2. ISO: Keep your ISO low (100 or 200). Higher ISOs will, in most cases, result in “digital noise” in your pictures.
  3. Aperture: Depending on how deep you’re working, most of the time you’ll be shooting between f8 and f16. This will provide you with greater depth of field.
  4. Speed: In the manual setting, it’s the right combination of aperture and speed that will yield the correct exposure. I tend to use speed as a creative tool—if I want my subject to be sharp and motionless I’ll go to a higher shutter speed: 1/125th or 1/250th. Or if I want to convey or capture motion, e.g., fish swimming, a slower shutter speed of 1/15th or lower is the way to go.
  5. Focus: I tend to keep my focus in automatic and in single subject, which allows me to autofocus on the subject. In this mode, as long as I keep the shutter button down, it will hold the focus even if I recompose the scene.—Raul Touzon

See more schools of fish »
Get more photo tips »

Share