|I captured this close-up shot of a male coral cardinalfish (Siphamia corallicola)
brooding its eggs on a trip to Indonesia.
When we first started this Photo Tip column almost two years ago, our goal was to offer simple, straightforward advice to beginning underwater photographers. We began by discussing the most basic concepts necessary to start making decent underwater images. We talked about lighting, the use of ambient light and underwater strobes, basic macro and wide-angle shooting techniques, exposure and composition styles, travel tips, and how to photograph marine animals of different sizes. In short, we have covered most of the fundamentals in underwater photography, without getting too fancy or technical.
So, now you have a pretty good conceptual understanding of underwater photography, how the camera systems work, and a few pointers on how to experiment and learn on your own. Hopefully, you have had some opportunities to get in the water with your camera gear to practice and hone your new skills. Now what?! How do you take your underwater photography to the next level?
For starters, there isn't a better training tool than plain old experience. The more you get into the water and shoot, the more you will learn from the successes and failures you see in your images. Unfortunately, if you are anything like me, the "failures" will almost certainly outnumber the successes, initially. But they really aren't failures, if you are paying attention to what caused your blurry, underexposed, or otherwise imperfect results. The lessons we can learn from our own mistakes are instrumental in making progress in any of life's endeavors. If you can realize what went wrong with what you thought, at the moment, was a great shot, you will certainly remember this miscue and be able to avoid making that same mistake repeatedly in the future.
|Experience also helps you find great subjects, like this
well-camouflaged octopus I photographed in Indonesia.
Don't forget, we are living in the digital age. Use the technology that you have in your hands to instantaneously review your images on your camera's LCD screen. (Although the camera screen may not be 100% representative of the quality of the image, I can guarantee you that if a photo looks out of focus or grossly over- or under-exposed on the LCD screen, it will certainly look more so when you view it on your computer's monitor.) You can then make instant adjustments to a number of variables used in the shooting process, so you can get multiple chances at nailing the shot before you move on to the next subject.
Luckily, there are plenty of things that can go awry when shooting underwater, so you don't have to be concerned that you will become bored with how easily and quickly you become an "expert."
|An underwater photographer with schooling bigeye jacks (Caranx sexfasciatus) near Cocos Island, Costa Rica|
While experience is probably the most beneficial tool in progressing as an underwater shooter, there are tons of resources available—most free or very inexpensive—that will help you learn from other photographers and their personal experiences. Two of my favorite online underwater photography resources are www.DivePhotoGuide.com  and www.Wetpixel.com , which are both run by some of the most knowledgeable and successful shooters in the industry. Both are completely free of charge to use, and offer all kinds of great tools to learn more about goings-on in the dive industry, specifically oriented to underwater photography. Both websites contain gobs of reliable resources about gear, travel, photo competitions, techniques, editing software and how to manipulate images (we didn't even scratch the surface on this), and even links to other industry sites that offer yet more information on these subjects. They also both sponsor trips with shooting pros to various dive locations around the world so that you can spend intensive one-on-one time, in the water and out, with some of the best underwater photographers in the world (hint: this feature is not free).
Dive magazines are another great resource to see what other shooters are doing, and to learn about industry news, new gear, etc. Sport Diver  and Scuba Diving , both based here in the U.S., even have monthly features specific to underwater photography that discuss different techniques and give helpful hints.
|This photo of mine was commended in the 2010 ANZANG
Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition
Do you ever wonder what you are going to do with all these fantastic underwater images you will create as you consistently improve your skills?
You only have so much wall space in your house, and limited financial resources to dedicate to framing your masterpieces, right?
Don't be afraid to enter your favorite images in photo competitions. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of competitions around the world that are specifically for underwater photography. All of the above-mentioned resources sponsor monthly, quarterly, and/or annual competitions, as well as publishing information on other contests that you can enter. Not only can it be extremely gratifying to have one of your images selected as a "winner" by industry experts, but it is also very helpful to learn from what other entrants have submitted to see techniques used by other shooters.
(You can learn how to enter CORAL's bi-monthly photo contest here .)
I'll talk about more good ways to use your photographs in my next column, but for now, go out and get shooting!
Have fun and dive safe,
To view more of Jeff's work, log on to: www.jeffyonover.com .
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All photos in this column are © Jeff Yonover