Engbretson Underwater Photography

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News From Behind the Scenes at Engbretson Underwater Photo and Stories about the Freshwater Environments We Visit.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How Important are Cameras to Underwater Photography?

People interested in underwater photography often ask me what kind of camera equipment I use. 

I’ve always felt that underwater photographers put far too much    
 emphasis on their equipment and not enough on studying the behavior, habits and biology of their subjects.  The best equipment won’t help you if you don’t know where to go, what you’re looking at or whether you’re truly seeing something rare, unusual or out of the ordinary. 

How many photographers can tell the difference between a good looking clown fish and a bad looking one?  If they all look the same to you, you need to study clown fish better.  What I mean is this:  In every species, you’ve got your pretty Scarlet Johansson types and your skanky Courtney Love types.  It's easy to notice the distinction when we're looking at our own species, but not as easy when we're viewing other species, like fish for example.  If you don’t recognize the differences, you’re in trouble, because the people buying your pictures often times can.  And if you try to pass off a Courtney Love for a Scarlett Johansson, you’re going to be regarded as someone who doesn’t really know what you’re photographing, even if your pictures are technically perfect. 

Too much emphasis is put on the equipment we use.  But the "secret sauce" so to speak, is not the cameras and lenses, rather the familiarity with the subject matter.  That's what makes the difference between good photos and bad ones.  I’ve seen some amazing pictures taken with crappy point and shoots because the photographer understood the situation he was in and what he was shooting.  So the emphasis on the equipment you use is really overrated and of little importance.  Think of it this way: If your girlfriend told you she found a great dress on sale at the mall, would you ask her what kind of car she drove to get to the mall?