Tips On Underwater Macro Aquatic Photography

Photographing underwater subjects can be tricky, at sometimes nearly impossible. Instead of taking my camera under the murky depths, I bring the subjects up and place them into a special small portable aquarium I built with a plastic bottom and ultra thin glass walls. The rear glass is a special non-glare glass, which not only cuts back on glare but blurs out the backgrounds that I either paint or create by placing natural objects behind. For objects on the bottom as props, such as drift wood, I drill metal screws into the wood and place a magnet I salvaged from a speaker box underneath. It holds down the buoyant wood and I can change them at will so not all my photos look the same.

Shooting on location is nice, but there usually is too much gear to carry. I take the subjects home, photograph them, then release them either that day or the following. Always at the same location as not to disturb other micro ecosystems in other ponds or lakes by introducing new predators and upsetting natural balance.

I shoot my strobe from above for a natural sunlit look and also to avoid glare from the reflective glass. I use distilled water instead of pond water to avoid dirt and foreign objects from showing up. I don’t use tap water due to the high level of chlorine and other pollutants that can cause damage or even death to the underwater creatures.

This tiny specimen, the tadpole was barely over an inch long. Some are even smaller.

Photo credits: Ryan Sartoski.

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April 13, 2011


wasn't going to comment, but if you want to attack someone there are plenty of pet stores abound. and your salt water photographs are great, but have you ever dived into a four foot deep Midwest pond? yeah... so, even as there are thousands upon thousands of frogs being dissected even as i write this, i don't think a day in the life of a tadpole will change the price of gasoline in the world... or maybe it has! for this i give my deepest apologies. some people are not in this for the money... but some, like you have to protect your best interests.

April 10, 2011


Also appreciate the fact that you take care of the eco balance. . . . . a very important thing for all nature photographers to remember. - posted by Joezachs on April 07, 2011

^ Untrue. By removing animals from their natural habitats you are introducing a level of stress that can, in many cases, kill the very animals he is photographing. I've been doing professional underwater photography for over 30 years and I can tell you that this kind of photographic activity would be frowned upon significantly in the underwater photography industry. A few years ago National Geographic's David Doubilet photographed some nudibranchs underwater on a light table to get a pure white background with a colorful snail. He then put the nudibranchs (snails) back but that was enough to net an industry outroar for which he had to try to defend himself on a post shoot basis. Why? Because he was moving animals from their natural habitat for "the shot" with little regard for the animal.

The way Ryan suggests has to be exponentially worse on the animal than Doubilet.

April 10, 2011


Very interesting information!

April 09, 2011


Interesting article, thanks for sharing.

April 08, 2011


Nice article

April 08, 2011



April 07, 2011


yes, i have a great respect for all creatures large and small. i try to go in-and-out as if i was never there at all. i try to keep my 'intrusions' to a minimum, as an observer of Nature and it's purity. and am a kid full of fascination at heart, only i have a camera so i can share it with others. hopefully this will help a photographer interested in this field, but at the same time keep them aware of their responsibilities they share with the natural world.

April 07, 2011


A good idea and thanks for sharing.
Also appreciate the fact that you take care of the eco balance. . . . . a very important thing for all nature photographers to remember.

April 07, 2011



April 07, 2011


Very Cool, Thanks

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