When it comes to filming underwater, setting your video camera on manual mode provides significant advantages over automatic mode. While automatic settings may seem convenient to most scuba divers, they often fall short in capturing the true beauty of the underwater world.
Here are the main reasons why using manual settings is preferable:
Customisation and Control:
Underwater environments present unique lighting conditions and colour variations. By using the manual setting, you have complete control over essential parameters such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. This customisation allows you to adapt to the specific lighting conditions, ensuring accurate colour reproduction and optimal exposure. If your camera is set on “automatic” then the camera and not the underwater videographer is choosing the best setting for that particular moment in time. The camera relies on its sensor to adjust all settings but lacks the human interpretation and intelligence to decide what and how the image should be looking regarding exposure, colour, focus and field of depth.
Automatic settings struggle to accurately expose underwater scenes due to the excessive amounts of blue or green water. By manually adjusting the exposure, you can compensate for these colour casts and achieve a more balanced and natural-looking footage. This control is especially important when capturing vibrant coral reefs, diverse marine life, or intricate details of underwater landscapes.
White Balance Adjustment:
Underwater environments often distort colours, making them appear washed out or dominated by a particular hue. By setting the white balance manually, you can correct colour casts caused by water conditions and artificial lighting sources. This adjustment ensures that the true colours of the underwater world are faithfully represented, enhancing the visual appeal of your footage.
Focus and Depth of Field:
Underwater scenes can be visually complex, with subjects varying in distance and size. Manual focus allows you to precisely select the focal point and adjust the depth of field, ensuring that your desired subject remains sharp and well-defined. This level of control is particularly crucial when capturing fast-moving marine creatures or macro shots of tiny organisms.
Consistency and Avoiding Fluctuations:
Automatic settings can cause unexpected fluctuations in exposure and focus, especially when the camera tries to adjust to changing lighting conditions underwater. Light conditions can occur suddenly and without warning under water; the sudden appearance of a dark cloud blocking the ambient sun light, descending or ascending into the water column, etc… These fluctuations can result in inconsistent footage, making it challenging to create a visually cohesive and professional-looking underwater video. Manual settings eliminate these fluctuations, allowing for consistent and visually pleasing results.
Not convinced? Just give it a try...
While it may take some time and practice to master the manual settings, the benefits of using manual mode underwater far outweigh the initial learning curve. By taking control of your camera's settings, you can unleash your creativity, capture stunning footage, and showcase the beauty of the underwater world in the most accurate and visually appealing way possible.
Learn how to understand and to master all your manual camera settings with our online Marine Wildlife Videography course and get the best out of your underwater video footage.