Underwater Photography An introduction into documenting the underwater world
It’s almost time for an underwater stills photography course that I am running together with expert assistance from professional photographer Louis Pieterse. We’ll be hosted by the awesome Garden Route Scuba, a PADI dive centre with the best views, in the quaint and quiet town of Mossel Bay. I’m always excited to train people at my home reefs,  the diverse macro-laden reefs of Mossel Bay. There are many treasures to be found here.

Here’s some info to help you decide if this course is for you. We try to run this mainly over a weekend, but you would need to take just the Friday off work. We will do a total of three dives.

Pre Course Meet&Greet:

On Thursday evening we will meet at the centre and go through the three days ahead and what to bring and prepare for each day.

We like to fit in a short lecture during this evening, but much depends on what time people will arrive in Mossel Bay. If you are booking a flight please try to land in George by 2 pm giving you time to get through to your accommodation, and to relax for an hour before heading down to the dive centre.

Day one- Friday: 

We meet for a coffee and delve into your underwater camera/housing and its buttons and settings; we take a look at possible upgrades and why you could, and even if you should? After that, we move into the basics of shooting in all the modes your camera will allow, including the ultimate full manual mode.  We talk about maintenance and preparation of your equipment and by then you’ve had enough of listening.  After a lunch break, we will spend the afternoon in the pool practising and you can ask all your questions. We’ll prepare the cameras for the next day. Later, there’s an introduction to Adobe Lightroom, the post-processing program of choice. You’ll receive an overview of the interface and we will delve in deeper over the weekend.


R2550 p.p



  • 3 x dives 
  • Course tuition

Day two- Saturday:

We do a pre-dive briefing on the photographic skills to be practised on that day and then we hit the water to seek out the macro treasures waiting for us. We do two dives and they are usually both macro dives on this day, conditions permitting. After a well-deserved lunch, it’s back to some theory. We’ll be looking at your shots from the morning and learning more about Lightroom at the same time. After the crit. session and a coffee we will get back into some more theory and cover such topics as wide-angle shooting; perfect strobe placement; use of ambient light; reading the ‘peak of the moment’. The Lightroom work for the day includes a look at its library and develop modules. We will set up our cameras for the next morning and then it’s time to relax. Garden Route Scuba is in the Mossel Bay Yacht Club and so a sundowner could fit in here.

Day three- Sunday:

As usual, there’s a pre-dive briefing on the photographic skills we will practise and today it’s wide-angle we are concentrating on. We whip around the reefs seeking out the gorgeously coloured corals and schools of fish that the area is known for. On occasions, we get a Raggie, which is always a bonus. Same as the previous day, we do a crit session and then it’s time to choose some photos that really worked and some that really didn’t and to do a group discussion- helping each other to find out why- based on what you’ve learned. Now, it’s time to really apply the knowledge you’ve acquired over the past 2 days.  The Lightroom work for the day includes a look at the remaining modules, esp. the slideshow module and how to watermark and export correctly.

As a bonus, and only if you tag my courses ( wink, wink, nudge, nudge! )  I’ll also show you how to quickly get your best shots out onto social media, appropriately watermarked and resized so they can’t be stolen. For those who aren’t rushing off back to work, on this final evening, we will present a combined slideshow and presentation of certificates whilst enjoying a braai or meal at the yacht club.

Rentals Available

Full gear Scuba rental is available @R450 per dive

Full DSLR camera rental with strobes is @R1800 for the full course

If you need assistance to find suitable accommodation please let us know

That’s a wrap.

recent posts

Underwater photography is on the rise as a hobby. The pros wont tell you and the books rarely mention this but there’s a few basic (but good) tips to consider when trying to take your base of knowledge of underwater photography to new heights. Before we look at the how to make good solid underwater photography great –there are some other things to consider. Here’s 5 essential basics that you may not have been told about. But shhhh, it’s a secret!

1.The photo must be in focus

At least try to get the main subject in focus. In macro photos this may only be one part of it and (unless you are going for an abstract image) then at least get the eye in focus. When editing photos always zoom in to a small portion of the subject to ensure everything is sharp and in focus. It’s even better if you can learn to’ zoom in’ on camera whilst shooting to ensure your LCD isn’t fooling you. It’s essential to do this underwater as often the LCD is hard to see through your housing. Spend a lot of time and effort learning how your camera’s auto-focus works choose the appropriate settings for your subject matter. Here’s one of my favourite photos  that ticks all the boxes except ( when you zoom in )  it is not in focus and thus, unusable.


fi ayerst

Hi, I’m Fiona. I love cats, sharks, reading, writing and being underwater.

2.There should be a clear subject in underwater photography

As with all forms of art, think about what you are photographing and the purpose of the photo. Also, try to learn as much as you can about the behaviour of the subject you want to shoot. Not only will this help you to find and approach it successfully but it may also help you to shed some light on the subject that makes more sense to the viewer. You can take this a step further when you get the hang of it.  You can try to depict the behaviour of a subject you have learned about in the ‘art’ of your image to elicit a “gut response”-  as that’s what you want to get out of your audience. If you look at the photo of the schooling coachmen you will see that it ticks all the boxes except point 1.

3.Composition should be considered

 Learn about the basic rules of composition and apply them. Certain simple rules like that of thirds will make a dramatic and immediate improvement if applied.

4.There should be well-balanced colour

In the art of underwater photography an under-utilised idea relates to complimentary colour play-offs. Learn and apply-  that blues work well with yellows and greens with purples and so on.

 5.Try to reduce the distance from port to subject as much as you can

Don’t zoom in. Improve your buoyancy and then approach with caution , so as not to harm the reef or the subject. Get in as close as you feasibly can unless you are trying to capture negative space.

Once you have those basics down to a T, its time to think about the greatness of your shot.

Here’s four things to consider

1. What makes the photo special?

Most times you may not have anything unusual or amazing happen and so how do you ensure you get a special shot? I recommend you look for dramatic angles and textures- both of which abound under the water.

2. Peak of the action

Humans are creatures of habit and the same can be said for many animals under the water. If you can learn to anticipate what your subject is likely to do next then you can set up a winning shot. Try to think ahead and be aware at all times of what is going on around you and what could happen next.

3. Emotion and mood

If you know more about the subject then you can often convey a certain feel that goes deeper than just a photo. If you can convey a mood or get an emotional response out of viewers with your photo then you are getting there.

4. Keep your composition simple.

That is the best tip of all. Even if you remember nothing else- try that.

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Blogger: Fiona Ayerst

Fiona is an award winning professional underwater and environmental photojournalist. Her work is published and portrayed throughout the world in numerous magazines, blogs and sites. Between May and October annual, Fiona manages Africa Media’s environmental and travel journalism internship program. 


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