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The Art of the Black Background

September 30, 2013

Its about time for us to write a new newsletter, we try to write them 4 times per year but sometimes we are not that consistent!  If you have never received our newsletter, one of the things that we always put in there is a short “UW Photography Tip”, for example, the following is the photo tip from Mike’s November 2012 newsletter about black backgrounds.  If you don’t receive our newsletter, please sign up here on any of our web pages and you will automatically receive it.  Its a great way to keep updated with news, new trips, last minute trips, and of course photo tips!

Anthias with parasitic copepods

One of the most effective macro photography techniques is the use of a black background to make that special critter shine!  A lot of folks believe that a black background can only be achieved by Photoshop manipulation, however, this is far from the truth.  The art of the black background is quite easy actually, and it comes down to just a few simple steps.  First, the subject must be perched upon something that allows the camera to get under it and shoot up; seagrass, a rock, a sponge or a bit of coral or in the water column itself (like the anthias photo above).   A second key ingredient is the depth and available ambient light: the ambient light needs to be relatively low and the photographer should be relatively deep in order to avoid the bright surface water.  Trying to shoot up into bright sun in shallow water will not work as the sunlight will give too bright of a background.  Next, the camera should be on f-11 or higher and set on the highest shutter speed that it can successfully synchronize with. Try using these tips and black backgrounds should be a breeze!  Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work at first, simply pull back, think about what went wrong, make a few adjustments and try again!

Juvenile Yellow Boxfish

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Underwater Tribe - Diving, Underwater Photography, and Adventure Travel in Bali and Beyond

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