Why You Need Lighting Underwater


Brent Durand: Hello underwater photographers! I’m Brent Durand and I shoot a lot of underwater
photos. And I am playing the air drums because today
we’re going to talk about lights, lighting, and why you need to have artificial light
underwater when shooting underwater photos and videos. So without further ado, let’s dive into the
tutorial. This particular video is brought to you by
SeaLife, so be sure to check out SeaLife cameras and Sea Dragon underwater lighting systems
at your local dive shop. Let’s cue the intro. Brent Durand: So, underwater lighting. It’s a huge topic and something that no professional
underwater photographer videographer will ever master. It’s a constant learning experience. But the basics dive into why we need to use
lighting underwater. And I get a lot of questions, I see a lot
of questions online, in forums, during workshops, and in a number of different places about
what can I do to improve my photography? What sort of camera can I buy? Can I just throw money at the problem and
like make my photos better with a better camera. It’s like, well, without proper lighting you
can do anything you want and the photos aren’t going to get a lot better. Adding light to your camera system is essential
to really get those photos that you’re seeing online that are well-lit, they’re bright,
they have vibrant color, they have shadows, contrast, they’re clear, you have nice subject-eye
contact, and all of those really fantastic photos. So lighting is step number 1. Brent Durand: So the reason we need artificial
light for shooting photos and videos underwater is because of the light falloff as we go deeper. So we all learned about this in our open water
certification. Which is that we lose color as we descend,
starting with the channel red, and progressing through different colors as we go, until eventually
you get to no light and everything is just going to be black down there underwater. Brent Durand: So, by using artificial light
we start to bring out those colors that we lost, whether it’s reds or oranges or yellows
or greens. And really bring that color back so that the
photos pop. And for ambient-type photos you tend to not
use lighting, so if you’re shooting a whale that’s really far off or a shipwreck that’s
also far off, you’re not going to use artificial light. But for most other photos, whether they’re
macro, mid-range, or wide-angle, anything close-focus, you’re going to want to use either
a video light – a constant light – or a underwater strobe, also called a flash. Brent Durand: These two types of light sources
have some very big differences. You’ve got the underwater flash, and then
you’ve also got the video light, which is a constant light, right here. And just a side note, whenever you’re looking
at these types of lights in the dive shop or at your local underwater camera retailer,
always point them at the ground. Don’t hold them up and point them in the eye. And same thing as on a night dive. Never flash your buddy in the eye. You can do your OK sign and things like that
under the light, versus flashing the light at their eyes. With that note aside, let’s dive in. Let’s talk about the differences between these
two light sources and why you need them. Brent Durand: So first off, we’re talking
underwater strobes. And these flash and are hands down the most
popular way to shoot still photos because they create this bright flash. And what that does is it is way more powerful
than a video light or constant light, so it’s going to deliver bolder colors, strong contrast,
stronger shadow delineation, and other factors for our still photos. It’s also a very, very bright light that fires
very quickly, meaning it freezes action. So if you have subjects that are moving around,
it is able to capture that action and freeze it so you’ll get sharp pupils of eyes and
things like that. Brent Durand: Whereas if you’re shooting with
a video light, you might find with a slower shutter speed, even points like backscatter
that are supposed to be pinpoints with a flash, are going to be blurred through the frame
as more close to what you might see in video where it’s less noticeable. So the big benefit here is being able to freeze
motion and create better, brighter photos with your underwater flash. Brent Durand: So this particular flash is
the SeaLife Sea Dragon Universal Flash. And what it does is it has an automatic and
a manual setting like most of the strobes and flashes that are out there. So I always recommend to people to try to
find a flash or strobe that has both automatic plus manual. There are a couple beginner-focused strobes
that have only automatic settings. But you really want to look for both so that
as you graduate from automatic to more manual settings to create your custom effects, you
can keep that strobe with you and it’s more of a long-term investment. So certainly something I like. You can shoot on both, it’s no problem. With automatic, also known as TTL, or manual,
but you know look for the strobe that has both. Brent Durand: So the way these strobes are
fired is through a fiber optic cable. And essentially what that does is transfer
light from the camera’s onboard flash to the strobe, which then fires. So your camera has a popup flash, and as you’re
shooting it bursts. This fiber optic cable takes that burst of
light and transfers it all the way into the strobe or the flash, and then that fires. If you’re shooting on manual, it sends out
a little light and then that light is transferred, and the strobe flashes the amount based on
the dial. So you’ll see on the SeaLife Flash you’ve
got a dial from 1 to 10, plus automatic. So based on that power setting, the strobe
is going to flash according to that power. Brent Durand: For shooting automatic or TTL,
the amount of light output from the camera will be relayed over the the flash, which
reads that amount of light output and will be brighter or less bright to expose the scene
properly based on what the camera is telling the flash to do. The camera is metering in that case and trying
to determine the best exposure, whereas in manual you’re doing that yourself. Brent Durand: So these can be used on any
different camera system. So the SeaLife Universal Flash can be used
on the DC2000, but it can be used on any other compact, mirrorless or DSLR camera system
that can take a fiber optic cable. Brent Durand: There are other systems that
use converters to take the flash signals from a camera, turn them into fiber optic and relay
to the strobe to fire. And those are more commonly found in mirrorless
and DSLR housings. And the benefit is that you’re not using the
popup flash, which saves a little bit of camera battery. But you still have the nice ease of use of
a fiber optic cable. Brent Durand: Lastly, there is also sync cords. So the sync cords take an electronic signal
straight from the camera that again negates use of the, the onboard flash, and sends it
directly to the strobe via electronics. And that electronic signal tells the strobe
to flash, and fire, and what intensity to use. So, a number of different ways to trigger
the strobes. And this is going to vary depending on your
particular system, but very easy to use. And once you get this set up, it’s great. Brent Durand: The fiber optic cables require
very minimal maintenance, which is great when you’re doing a lot of diving, and trying to
set up a system and take it apart very quickly. So let’s take a look now at video lights. Brent Durand: So for video lights – and let’s
add one to our system here. There we go. And we’re attached and ready to shoot video. And generally video lights are used primarily
for video. We turn it on, and here we go, we’ve got our
constant light, so we can shoot for any number of seconds or minutes as we’re getting the
shot. Brent Durand: One of the things I keep in
mind is that for most lights out there, the burn time at 100% power is about 60 minutes. So keep that in mind. Try not to keep the light on throughout your
entire dive because it will run out of power, especially if you’re trying to get through
two or even three dives during the day. So something to keep in mind. Brent Durand: If you have a nice strong light,
like this is the SeaLife Sea Dragon 5000 Lumen, that is going to create a lot of power and
you might not need to run the light at full intensity. So turn it on, and then you can cycle through
the power modes to find the right intensity for what you’re shooting. If you’re shooting very close to something,
you might not need the full power or the full 5000 lumens that the light has in order to
light the subject. You might be ok shooting at 2,000 lumens. So that’s something to consider when choosing
your light. Brent Durand: Another question I’m asked quite
a bit is, “Do I go with one light or do I go with a two light system?” So let’s say we’re going here and we want
to take the flash off. And we’re trying to build a two light system. Boom, here we go, two video lights. This to me is much better for wide angle. We can adjust the lights out here, and now
when we’re shooting a reef or something really wide we’ve got a nice field of view. We’ve got our video lights nice and even,
lighting up the entire scene in front of us. Brent Durand: Where one light might be a little
better if we’re trying to shoot macro. So let’s pop this off right here. So now we’ve got a smaller field of view,
and we’ve got our one light so we can be really focused here in what we’re shooting with our
single light. And it can have any number of lumens that
we want because we’re shooting very close. The stronger isn’t necessarily essential when
shooting those. For wide-angle, the stronger the light, the
higher the lumens – also relates to the cost of the light – but you’re going to get better
results because the light is going to be brighter and deliver better color. So it comes down to what you want to do. If you want to go for the one light. If you want to go for two lights. Maybe two lower powered lights so you get
that nice even wide-angle lighting. Or maybe you want just the one light that’s
the most powerful. So, you know, it’s up to you. Definitely something to consider when talking
to your local dive shop or underwater camera retailer. They’ll be able to point you towards the right
light for your budget, and for what you’re really looking to shoot. But the nice thing is having that flexibility
with the video lights. Brent Durand: And just like our strobe, these
lights really help bring the light back into the scene. Now I mentioned shooting a lot of video with
video lights – constant lights – but we can also shoot still photos. So with that we can shoot in automatic or
in a manual setting. Let’s turn this one on again. And what you’re doing if you’re shooting automatic
is the camera is metering for the light it sees available in front of the camera. If you’re shooting on manual, you’re the once
controlling the exposure of the camera based on what you’re seeing through the scene. So this light is constant. It’s not like if you were firing the flash. That just has a burst of light and you’re
judging an exposure based off of looking at the image review. You know this is exactly the way the scene
is going to be when you have this light on. Brent Durand: So it does make manual exposure
easier. With these video lights you’re going to use
a slower shutter speed which could create some motion in certain subjects and things
like that. So there’s certainly pros and cons to using
the video light, or the constant light, when shooting still photos. So something to consider. Certainly a universal solution in building
your first camera system might be to get a single light with a smaller system. And now you’re good to go. Nice, compact, you can clip the system off
on your BCD and go from there. So maybe you want one light. Maybe you want the two lights. Maybe you want a flash and a light because
you really want the still photos and video lights. So depending on what you want to accomplish,
there’s a number of different lights with lumen counts at different price points, as
well as the flash, which lets you capture all of those unique subjects, whether they’re
photos or videos. Brent Durand: So that’s pretty much it. We’ve learned that we really want to have
artificial lighting underwater whether we’re shooting still photos or video. We can go the route of a flash for still photos,
or a constant light for underwater videos or even for photos as well. So there’s a lot of choices out there. Brent Durand: And if you have any questions,
as always, please put them in the comments below. I’ll be sure to answer all of them. And if you’re not subscribed, please subscribe
to our channel. We’ve got a lot more tutorials coming at you. And lastly, a big thanks to SeaLife for sponsoring
this video tutorial with all of their lights and gear. I look forward to seeing you guys in the next
one. Thanks!

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