Tutorials

How to take beautiful abstract ocean sunrise and sunset photos by Hannah Prewitt

Whenever I post an abstract ocean sunrise image like the one below online, I always get messages from people asking me how I did it. I love to share information and teach others, so today I’d like to share with you my top tips for creating these types of images for yourself.

1/4000, f/1.8, ISO 100

1/4000, f/1.8, ISO 100

Tip #1 - Use a wide aperture

This is because we want a shallow depth of field, so you want to shoot as wide open as your lens allows. I shoot with my 50 mm f/1.8 most of the time, and shoot wide open at f/1.8. It’s this shallow depth of field that helps to create these abstract images.

If you don’t have a really wide lens, then don’t worry. You can still try with what you have. I shot this image below at f/4, before I had a port for my other lens and it still looks pretty cool!

1/1000, f/4, ISO 200

1/1000, f/4, ISO 200

Tip #2 - Focus on the foreground

I’ve experimented with using single point focus as well as 3D continuous tracking focus for these images. Both actually work quite well so it’s up to you, but the main thing to remember is that you want to focus on the ocean, not the sun. We want the sun to be out of focus so I recommend setting your focus point in the bottom third of the frame. If you haven’t played around with your camera settings much, you might need to change your settings so that your camera takes a shot when you release the shutter, rather than only when it’s focused. If you don’t do this, you will probably find that you can’t take a photo because it will appear to the camera that nothing is properly in focus. (If anyone wants to know where to find this on a Nikon camera, feel free to get in touch).

Tip #3 - Shoot on high speed burst mode

I don’t think I ever actually take my camera off this mode, but it’s especially important to use when you’re shooting in the water. Even in fairly calm water, the light will constantly be moving around and dancing with the water, creating really unique reflections, so you want to capture it all!

Tip #4 - Shoot at sunrise or sunset

I hate to point out the obvious, but you’ll need the sun to be as close to the surface of the ocean as possible if this is the kind of image you’re after. If it’s sunrise, make sure you’re in the water at least a few minutes before the sun rises, because those first few minutes are when the magic happens. Once the sun reaches a certain height, it just gets far too bright.

1/2000, f/1.8, ISO 50

1/2000, f/1.8, ISO 50

Tip #5 - Follow the light

Don’t forget to look around to see where else the light is falling. The sunlight simply glistening on the ocean surface can also make for a really stunning image.

1/3200, f/1.8, ISO 50

1/3200, f/1.8, ISO 50

Tip #6 - Shoot in all different conditions

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need a perfectly clear sky to get these kinds of shots. Cloud cover helps to create very different and more dramatic lighting conditions.

I’d like to keep this tutorial nice and simple, so I’ll leave it there. I would LOVE to see your attempts if you try out these tips for yourself, so please feel free to email them to me or send via my Instagram or Facebook page.

Happy shooting!

A variety of these images are available to purchase as prints online.

Photography tutorial - how to take beautiful abstract ocean photos

Editing the same image 4 different ways in Lightroom by Hannah Prewitt

I get a lot of questions about how I edit photos. I also get some criticism. Some people don’t like to edit their images, and that’s fine, but I personally love nothing more than to sit down at my computer with a fresh cup of coffee, put on some noise-cancelling headphones and select one of my editing playlists, and spend the next couple of hours playing around in Lightroom. As I enjoy this process so much, I’d like to share with you some of the ways that I create different moods by editing the same ocean image four different ways. The great thing about this Lightroom tutorial, is that I have only used four panels - the basics, tone curve, HSL, and split toning.

This is the RAW image straight from the camera that I chose to edit:

Editing ocean photos in Lightroom

And here are the four different moods that I created by tweaking a few different settings in Lightroom:

This process incidentally has also forced me to name my edits, which I quite like. If you follow my work, you might recognise that I have used all of these styles on various images, and I seem to get great feedback on all of them, which is nice. The kind of edit that I choose varies day by day, and simply depends on what mood I’m in.

Without further ado, let’s get started with how I created these different edits.

EDIT #1 - TROPICAL PARADISE

Basics panel

This is how the image looks when I made adjustments only to the basics panel. I’ve brightened the photo a little using the exposure slider as well as lifting the blacks and shadows. I rarely do this, as I usually like lots of contrast in my ocean photos but I was going for something a little different here and I think it works well. I’ve also pushed the clarity slider right up to +100, which is something I only do when editing underwater images, otherwise you run the risk of the photo looking too over-processed.

Tone curve

The next thing I did is add a little contrast by using a subtle S-curve within the tone curve panel.

HSL

Next I adjusted the specific colours in the image. I do this using the HSL panel. In this image, there are only two colours present - aqua and blue. However, be aware that there is often green and purple in your blue hues, and sometimes yellow present where you might not realise, and this can also change depending on your white balance - if you warm your photo a lot then there’ll be some yellow or orange in your image.

Here I’ve made the blue slightly less purple and the aqua more blue. This gives a nice overall tropical blue tone that I love without the water looking too green. Then I desaturate them both a little and create some contrast between the two by increasing the luminance of the aqua and decreasing the luminance of the blue. I find this makes the ocean really stand out against the sky.

And there we have it. A few simple edits. This is the final image:

Final image_tropical paradise.jpg

EDIT #2 - BRIGHT SUMMER

Basics panel

The major adjustments I made here were to create contrast between the blacks and whites. I also made the image a little warmer than the previous edit using the white balance sliders. I’ve chosen to use lots of clarity once again, but with this edit, I’ve also pushed the dehaze slider. This is a very important tool for ocean images, but can be easily overdone so use it sparingly. After you’ve dehazed, you might find that you then need to increase your overall exposure as well.

Tone curve

I made some very subtle adjustments to the tone curve to create a little more contrast. I prefer to use the tone curve to create contrast rather than just the contrast slider, as you have more control over the exact parts of the image you are adjusting.

HSL

As I said previously, you might find that the colours in the image vary slightly if you’ve adjusted the white balance. This edit has more red in it than the previous edit, therefore there is a tiny bit of purple in the image. It’s very subtle, but I like to remove this purple (which tends to show up in the sky) by adding more blue to it and then desaturating it completely. I’ve then made the aqua more blue and the blue more aqua, desaturated them both a little and the brightened them up by increasing the luminance.

This is how the image looks after these adjustments:

Bright Summer - HSL edit.jpg

Split toning

Since this edit is called Bright Summer, the final adjustment I made was to add a little warmth. I like to do this to the highlights using split toning. I will usually compliment this by adding some slight blue to the shadows as well. And this is the final image.

EDIT #3 - DARK STORM

Basics panel

For this edit, I wanted to create a cool and dark mood, as if a tropical storm were approaching. I used a cool temperature and added some red to the tint. Red is the first colour you lose underwater, and even though this water is very shallow, sometimes adding red can help the image to look a little more realistic. With this edit, I chose to decrease the overall contrast, which is something I usually do with underwater photos, as I find that it somehow brings more clarity to the seafloor. I can then accentuate this by bringing up the highlights and whites, and decreasing the shadows and blacks. I then added some overall clarity and desaturated the image to make it look more moody.

Tone curve

A strong S-curve is essential for this type of dark, moody edit. It looks pretty extreme without the final colour adjustments, but bear with me.

HSL

This is where the magic happens. As we’ve already established, with this particular image, there are only three colours present - aqua, blue and purple - so making adjustments to any of the other colours makes no difference to the photo.

You can see from the hue panel above that I’ve made the aqua much more blue, I’ve made the blue slightly more aqua, and I’ve pulled the purple all the way to the blue end. I’ve then completely desaturated the purple, and desaturated the blue and aqua as well. Finally, I brought some light to the seafloor by increasing the luminance of the aqua. All of these adjustments produces this final image:

Final image_dark storm.jpg

EDIT #4 - ICY FRESH

Basics panel

This edit is fairly warm but still has a red tint. I’ve pulled down the highlights here, which is a great way to get detail back from clouds or bright skies. I’ve dehazed the image quite a lot, which consequently means I have to increase the exposure. Then I’ve added some more contrast by decreasing the blacks and bringing up the whites. Once again, I’ve added full overall clarity and desaturated the colours but increased their vibrancy. If you wish you add saturation to your photos, I would suggest trying this out to avoid making the image look too overdone.

Tone curve

I’ve only used the tone curve subtly this time, and actually added a slight matte effect to the photo by lifting the blacks from the very bottom. Sometimes this effect can look really cool, especially with portraits, but be careful not to overdo it.

HSL

I think this panel is my favourite. It’s really where the magic happens. So with this edit, I’m going for an icy blue feel so I’m going to do some similar adjustments as I did with the previous ‘dark storm’ edit. I’ll add more blue to the aqua hues, make the blue a little more aqua, and take all the purple out. I want to desaturate the blue sky and the illuminate all the colours a little to brighten it up.

This is what these adjustments create:

Icy fresh - HSL edit.jpg

Split toning

Since this edit was supposed to be very blue, I wanted to add a little more blue to the overall image. So I did this using the split toning panel by adding a little touch of blue to the highlights. Split toning is a really useful tool to create subtle but effective colour changes to your photos without adjusting the white balance. I personally find that you can play around quite a lot with the highlights but adding too much saturation to the shadows can quickly make an image look over-processed.

And that’s it folks. I hope this tutorial helped you to understand my editing process and hopefully inspired you to try some different techniques with your own photos.

Let’s take one last look at all of the edits together.

I’ve personally used all of these styles in my images, however when I look at them all together like this, my absolute favourite is ‘Dark storm’. Which is yours?

How to take amazing surfing photos every time by Hannah Prewitt

Surfing was one of the reasons that I got into photography. Even though I’m now a surfer myself, I still love to shoot surfers. Especially good ones. Admittedly, when I first started taking photos, I would shoot on auto sport mode and think I was taking good photos. A couple of them were okay, I suppose. As my knowledge of photography has progressed, so has my ability to take great surfing photos. So now I’d like to share my top tips with you.

Just to be clear, this is not a beginner’s guide to surf photography so I’m assuming that you understand you’ll need a fast shutter speed, and a long lens. Also, these tips are NOT water-specific. They are aimed at those shooting from land or a boat, but can obviously be applied to shooting in the water as well.

Firstly, let’s go back in time to four years ago, before I even owned a camera and have a look at some of my very first surfing photos…

How to take amazing surfing photos every time-11.jpg

This is a shot of my husband, who is an amazing surfer and an absolute pleasure to shoot when it’s pumping. So it’s pretty easy to get a decent photo of him. And I think you’d agree that this one looks half decent. I’m sure most surfers would be fairly happy with this shot to post on their social media. But when we zoom in, you can see that the image isn’t sharp, the white water is pretty blown out, and it’s not very easy to make out his face.

Compare that with this shot taken much more recently, and you can see a noticeable difference in quality.

How to take amazing surfing photos every time-12.jpg

So how do you turn your surfing photos from average to ones people are willing to pay for?

Here are my top tips :)

Tip #1 - Use back-button focus

I randomly read about this somewhere and decided to try it for myself, and since making this adjustment to my camera I would never ever go back to using shutter-button focus. Even for general photography. The way your camera focuses now (unless you’ve changed it) is by half-pressing the shutter button. Which means that when you stop shooting, you then have to re-focus on the subject before you can shoot it again. When photographing surfers, this could easily mean that you miss the money shot. When I used to use shutter-button focus, probably only 60% of my shots were in focus. Once I switched to back-button focus, 95% of my shots were in focus.

So what is back-button focus? Well, it’s basically where you assign another button (ideally one on the back of the camera where your thumb naturally sits) to focus for you, leaving the shutter button to just take the photo. Which means that you can keep your focus button pressed ensuring your subject stays in focus while you choose when to press the shutter button and take a shot. Try this out and I promise you, it will totally change your surf photography.

Tip #2 – use 3D-tracking focus

This is another tip to help you focus on your subject but not all cameras are capable of it. I shoot with either the Nikon D750 or the D7200, both of which have this focus mode. You’ll find it under the continuous focus options and it basically tracks the subject for you as it moves. Very clever! Again, this will help to get almost all of your shots in perfect focus!

Tip #3 – shoot in high speed burst mode

This seems pretty obvious but if you shoot in single shot mode, then you have to keep pressing the shutter button every time you want to take a photo, which can waste valuable time and can mean that you miss the best action. Shooting in high burst mode means you just hold the shutter and your camera will take lots of photos split seconds apart from each other, giving you a nice sequence of a turn and ensuring you get the moment with the most spray.

Tip #4 – use a fast SD card

I used to think that all SD cards were the same, just different sizes. I was wrong. If you want to shoot in high speed mode (which you do), then you’ll need an SD card that is fast enough to write the images to it as quickly as you’re taking them. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself holding down the shutter but not actually taking any photos! Some brands are also more reliable than others. The last thing you want when you’ve made the effort to go somewhere to shoot is for your SD card to give you an error message. I would recommend SanDisk over every other brand. This card linked below is extremely affordable and writes more than quick enough for the needs of most surf photographers.

Tip #5 – have a basic understanding of surfing

In order for you to shoot great pictures of surfers, you need to understand what it is that surfers are looking for in an image. This is why most surf photographers do, or used to, surf themselves. It really helps to understand the sport. But, if you’re not quite there yet, then here are a few examples of surfing money shots:

How to take amazing surfing photos every time-4.jpg

A great bottom turn – you’re looking for the board to be on its rail as much as possible. If you can see fins or spray coming off the board, you’re winning.

Spray – if a surfer pulls off a great turn, they’re probably going to want the shot with the most spray in it.

How to take amazing surfing photos every time-7.jpg

Deep in the barrel – it doesn’t matter if they make it out or not – get a shot where they look super deep and they’ll want that photo.

How to take amazing surfing photos every time-13.jpg

Airs – if you see a surfer gaining some speed, chances are they might be headed to the air. It doesn’t matter if they land it or not, just that you get the evidence.

It’s also great to shoot the entire sequence of someone’s wave because they can use it for coaching purposes and a fast sequence acts like a video but with better stills. Plus it gives the surfer more options to choose from so they’re more likely to buy from you.

Tip #6 – if possible, get the surfer to wear something bright

Your camera’s autofocus works using contrast. Most surfers like to wear dark colours, which means #1 it makes it difficult for you to pick them out of a busy line-up, and #2 it can make it more difficult for your camera to focus from a distance against the dark water if the sun isn’t out. On that note, if you’re a surfer, be conspicuous and you’re more likely to get photos!

Tip #7 – try to avoid shooting into the sun

Unless you’re looking for arty shots that are silhouetted, try to avoid shooting at the time of day where you’re going to be shooting into the sun. So if the wave faces west, sunset might not be the best time shoot if you want crisp clear images.

How to take amazing surfing photos every time-14.jpg

Tip #8 – consider the white water in your exposure

If you’re shooting on a big day, you might want to consider how much white will appear in your image quite quickly. You won’t have time to change your exposure mid-wave, so just bear in mind that you might want to underexpose the image to start with, to ensure that you don’t massively blow out the highlights. You might not be bothered about seeing the details in the white water, but it can sometimes make for an interesting shot, like this one below that I can see all sorts of faces in!

How to take amazing surfing photos every time-8.jpg

Those are my top tips that hopefully will help your surf photography. If you’ve got any of your own that I haven’t mentioned, please leave me a comment. I’m always looking to keep learning and improving.

How to take amazing surfing photos every time

A beginner's guide to shooting the stars. Part II - editing by Hannah Prewitt

Now that we’ve learnt how to take a photo of the stars (see part 1 - shooting), it’s time to learn how to edit your image. It’s likely that when you load your shot to your computer, the image will look really dark. Honestly, mine look almost black. However, there is a lot of data in that image that can be brought out with some careful and simple tweaking in Adobe Lightroom. Let’s get started.

For this example I’m going to show you how to turn this shot straight out of the camera (on the left) to a beautiful processed image (on the right). I love the crazy transformation!

Note how dark the image looks before processing, and how much detail we can bring out in post.

Note how dark the image looks before processing, and how much detail we can bring out in post.

The settings for this shot are: 15 secs, f/4.0, ISO 400. Because there are some artificial lights in this shot, I was very aware of not blowing out these highlights. If the lights were not on, then I would have used a longer exposure time and a slightly higher ISO.

BASICS PANEL

The first thing we’ll need to do in Lightroom is bring up the exposure quite a lot. I’ve brought this up to +4.10. Which tells me that I probably should have exposed my original shot a little more, since I can only bring up the exposure in post-processing to +5, which I’m pretty close to. So I’ll remember that for next time!

Exposure +4.10

Exposure +4.10

Now you can see that the area where the artificial lights have now been blown out so we want to bring down the highlights to rebalance the image. Let’s bring it down to -47.

Highlights -47

Highlights -47

I’d like to bring out some of the details in the foreground so I’m going to lift the shadows a little, to +45. I’m doing this for this shot because the foreground is interesting. However, if you had a silhouette in the foreground, then I would decrease the shadows to accentuate the silhouette.

Shadows +45

Shadows +45

Now the shot is starting to take some form, so let’s bump up the contrast to make it pop a little more. I’m also going to bring up the blacks to +19, which will help to bring out a little more light in the darker parts of the image.

Contrast +44; blacks +19

Contrast +44; blacks +19

Now that our image is looking pretty good, let’s play around with the white balance. I personally like my star photos to look as natural as possible, so let’s adjust the temperature to 3,400 and add a tint of red +7.

The next thing I’m going to do is add some clarity to the image. I don’t normally add much clarity to my photos but for star photos, it really adds some good punch. Let’s add +39 clarity.

Temperature 3,400; tint +7; clarity +39

Temperature 3,400; tint +7; clarity +39

We can see the shot looks a bit more defined, now I’d like to add a bit more punch to the colours, so let’s add a bit of vibrance and saturation. Be careful not to go too overboard with these.

Vibrance +18; saturation +13

Vibrance +18; saturation +13

That’s pretty much it for the basics panel. Now let’s go to the Tone Curve. I want to bring out some of the highlights a little more using this curve, so I made a curve like this. Try it out on your shot and see if it brings out the milky way.

Now let’s move down to the Detail panel. Sharpening your image is essential, and so is reducing the noise, especially with an astro shot. These are the edits I made, but it will vary depending on your particular photo.

You can see the before sharpening and noise reduction (left) and after (right) and how much better it looks. TIP: always zoom in to 100% when making detail adjustments so you can really see what effect you’re having on the image.

 

DETAILS

Now it’s time to bring out some magic in the milky way. This involves some colour adjustments and accentuating the white of the stars. I do this using radial filters. First I like to apply a radial filter over the whole of the milky way. I have a preset for this, but the basic adjustments involve increasing highlights and whites, adding clarity and adjusting the temperature to add some warm and pinkish tones. You can see now the milky way looks much better.

Now it’s up to you if you want to make any more adjustments. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to edit an image – it’s all about personal style. I personally think that the milky way looks a little purple, so I added another radial filter on top to add some more yellow tones.

Beginner's guide to editing star photos

I’m pretty happy with how this shot looks so I decided to stop editing here. You can always add a few more adjustments, such as smaller radial filters over parts of the milky way to bring out the whites or adjust the colour slightly. If you wanted to, you could even apply a tiny radial filter over individual stars to make them pop a little more, or add some warmer tones to the artificial lights on the house. Other photographers probably have different ways of editing their night time photos but if you’re not sure where to start, try increasing exposure, whites and clarity, and then play around with your colours. Soon you’ll be able to transform an image from this….

How to edit night time star photos for beginners

to this!

how to edit night time star photos

A beginner's guide to shooting the stars by Hannah Prewitt

I’m not sure that I feel qualified to write a tutorial on astro photography, but it’s been personally requested, and I have been able to successfully produce some pretty nice night photos without any assistance so I must have some idea what I’m talking about. However, by no means do I consider myself an expert on the subject, so if you have any tips for me, please leave them in the comments below. So let’s call this ‘A beginner’s guide to star photography’.

I’m going to try and make this as simple as possible, so this first part will be about how to physically shoot the image. Then I’ll write another post explaining how to edit your image.

Location

I’m not going to talk too much about locations, because basically, you can shoot the night sky anywhere, assuming you’re outside. However, you want to try to minimise light pollution so that you can really see the stars clearly. So try to get as far away from cities and houses as you can. If you can get to a beach, or rural area, a field or mountain, they should all work pretty well.

How to shoot the stars photography tutorial for beginners

Composition

If you’re just aiming to get a photo of the milky way, then point your camera in that direction and get clicking. However, if you want to make your image a bit more interesting then we want to try and get something else in the image as well. Find something to silhouette, or put something in the foreground, or even get someone to stand still in your photo. I personally find composition one of the most difficult things about shooting at night because it’s hard to see in the dark. So you’ll have to take a few test shots just to check that you’re actually shooting what you think you are.

Equipment

Usually I say that equipment doesn’t matter, but when it comes to shooting in very low light, it does. You will need a tripod. A good one. It’s really important that your camera stays absolutely still while the shutter is open, otherwise your image will not be sharp. In terms of the camera itself, ideally you want to shoot with a full frame sensor, but if you only have a crop one, that will work too. With regards to lenses, you’re probably going to want to use a nice wide angle lens if you have one, so that you get as much in the image as possible. I shoot all my night photos at 16 mm, which is perfect for getting in the whole milky way as well as something in the foreground (remember if you’re using a crop frame camera then 16 mm will be the equivalent of about 24 mm depending on the camera model). You will also need to have access to Adobe Lightroom or equivalent editing software.

How to shoot the stars photography tutorial

SETTINGS

 First of all, you must shoot in RAW. If you don’t already, then now is the best time to start. I remember reading a blog back in the day by a photographer who regretted not switching to raw earlier. I ignored it because I didn’t understand the reason behind it, and now I wish I’d done it earlier. Basically, a jpeg is a lossy file, which means that it loses data and really limits your editing potential. The only time I shoot in jpeg now is when I’m shooting a lot of surfers and I need to save space, and I know I won’t be doing much editing at all.

The next thing we want to do is set our focus. The autofocus on your camera works by using contrast, which it will struggle to find at night because everywhere is dark. If you have a very bright spot, you might be able to use autofocus, but I always switch to manual. You then have two options. You can either set your manual focus to almost infinity when it’s still light and then tape the focus ring in place, or you can use your camera’s live view and zoom in on the stars and set your focus, which is what I do.

I also read somewhere that you should turn off your lens’ image stabilisation if you have it, so I do that too.

We will also need to use our camera in manual mode. If you’re not yet comfortable shooting in full manual mode, now is a good time to start that as well. In terms of the settings we choose, think of your camera as needing access to as much light as possible.

So you’ll need to use a nice wide aperture, but not so wide that the image is blurry. I use f/4 because that’s the widest my lens will shoot at, but f/2.8 would work great too. Then we can set our ISO. We’ll need to bump this up a little but not so much that there is excessive noise in our image. So it really depends on the capabilities of your camera. Most blogs will tell you to start at an ISO of 1600 (which is pretty high if your camera isn’t great), and then move up from there, but I’ve managed to achieve great images with an ISO as low as 400. It also depends on how much light is in your shot. I would start at 800 and adjust as needed. Be aware that the photo on your camera will look very dark! But not to worry, we’ll be bringing out all the data in Lightroom afterwards.

For your shutter speed, we need to use something called the 500 rule to calculate the longest shutter speed we can use with our specific lens in order to maintain a sharp image. The rule is simple. Divide 500 your focal length. So I use a focal length of 16 mm, so 500/16 is 31.25, which means that I can use a shutter speed up to 30 seconds and still get a sharp image. If I were shooting at let’s say 24 mm, then 500/24 is 20.8, so I would need to keep my shutter speed at 20 seconds or less. Unless of course, you want to get a blurry shot. Star trails look amazing. I haven’t personally done them because I don’t have a remote timer, but if you want to try this, then set your shutter speed to bulb (it took me SO long to discover what this was!) and you can then manually set your timer.

For your white balance, well I don’t ever set my white balance unless I’m shooting underwater. If you shoot in raw, you have full control over your white balance in post, so just set it to auto and forget about it.

And that’s pretty much it! Here’s a nice summary of the settings you can use. Remember that this is just a guide to get you started, and you will probably need to adjust things a little.

Star photography settings for beginners

Tutorial: How to take perfect underwater split photos by Hannah Prewitt

One of my favourite types of photos to shoot are split photos - where you can see underwater and above water at the same time. I just love the glimpse into both worlds. But they can be quite difficult to get right, so here are a few tips on how you can take your own split photos.

1/1000, f/13, ISO 400

1/1000, f/13, ISO 400

First of all, you're obviously going to need a camera that you can take underwater. Ideally, you're want to use a wide angle lens paired with a dome port. I have an Olympus Pen E-PL5 with a 14 mm lens and Olympus housing with a 7" dome port. The dome port helps to widen the image by moving the water further away from the lens. However, you don't need this setup. GoPro's are already extremely wide and you can even get basic waterproof covers with dome lenses for your smartphone these days!

1/1600, f/8, ISO 200

1/1600, f/8, ISO 200

There's nothing more frustrating than getting the perfect split shot to find a massive water droplet on the above part of the image. To avoid this, before you enter the water, be sure to spit on the lens. That's right, spit all over it. I like to actually lick my entire dome port before entering the water. I picked up this tip from legendary wave photographer Clark Little if that makes it a little less gross.

1/2000, f/8, ISO 320

1/2000, f/8, ISO 320

Ok, settings. You're going to need a pretty fast shutter speed to capture the moving water, especially if the conditions aren't perfect. I would recommend something faster than 1/800 but depends on how flat the day is. The aperture is up to you. If you want to get everything above the water and below in focus, then you'll need to use a narrow aperture. But try out some wide apertures as well, to get some different artistic water shots.

1/3200, f/3.8, ISO 200

1/3200, f/3.8, ISO 200

I would also recommend shooting in high burst mode. That way, you're likely to get at least one great image from a burst, especially if the water is a bit choppy.

I hope these tips are helpful for you to achieve this type of image. One of the best things about these shots are that no two are ever the same, and if you're lucky, something awesome might just swim into your photo!

1/800, f/16, ISO 800

1/800, f/16, ISO 800

Underwater split photos tutorial

Tutorial: How to create beautiful ocean panning shots by Hannah Prewitt

Recently, I posted a couple of ocean panning images on social media. People responded really well to them, and I quickly received a lot of questions asking how to do a shot like that. So, I thought I'd write a quick tutorial explaining my process.

2.5s, f/22, ISO 64

2.5s, f/22, ISO 64

Technique

So what's the technique? Well, it's a panning shot, which means that you need to move the camera whilst taking the image. So ideally, you'll need a tripod to keep your camera nice and steady, but I have achieved many great panning shots without one, just using my body to stabilise the camera as much as possible. While the shutter is open, you'll need to slowly move your camera from left to right. I personally like to start moving the camera before pressing the shutter, as I find it helps to make the shot much smoother.

1.6s, f/9, ISO 320

1.6s, f/9, ISO 320

Settings

This type of shot is a long exposure, which means that the shutter is open for a relatively long time. How long is up to you. Start with 1 second, and then experiment around that. I usually find that 1.6 seconds creates a pretty good image. Of course it depends on what you're shooting and how fast everything is moving. Play around with it to find what works for you. Chances are, you'll have to take quite a few shots before getting one you're happy with. Bear in mind, that because we're doing a long exposure, you'll need it to either be dark enough to avoid blowing out your image, or use an ND filter if there is too much light.

2s, f/14, ISO 200

2s, f/14, ISO 200

What do you shoot?

Obviously we're shooting the ocean. But what the waves are doing is going to have a huge impact on your final image. The image above was taken from the clifftop overlooking a peeling point break in Bali. But shooting from the shore of a beach break is going to give you different results, because the waves are more shifty and there's probably going to be some white water (which is how I achieved the different colours in this shot below).

1.6s, f/4.5, ISO 400

1.6s, f/4.5, ISO 400

Also, if you have clouds in your photo, then the final image will look different compared to a clear sky. Personally, I think clear skies work best.

And it's as simple as that! Hopefully you're now able to take your own awesome ocean panning shots. Please feel free to tag me or send me your images. I'd love to see them!

Tutorial how to create beautiful ocean panning photos

Tutorial: How to make your underwater photos really POP by Hannah Prewitt

I always find it fascinating to see how people edit their images. I love to see before and after shots. I know a lot of photographers don’t agree with editing photos, but personally, I find it just as much fun as taking the shots in the first place. For me, it is an art, my creative outlet. I’ve received quite a few questions about how I make the water in my photos look so clear and detailed, so I’d like to share how I edited this image of silver fishes swimming.

I’d like to start off by showing you what the original image looked like straight from the camera.

Pretty shocking right? Most people would probably look right past this image. You can see that the water wasn’t very clear that day and I didn’t really expose the shot very well. However, this image can be saved because (1) I shot in RAW, and (2) the sun was out - this is very important for underwater photos.

After I did my edits in Lightroom (I won’t cover that here), you can see that the image looks 100 x better.

Fishes with lighroom edits.jpg

But it’s still not quite as punchy as I’d like it. All the data is there, I just need to coax it out a little more. This is where I use Google Nix Color Efex Pro. Google used to charge for this but now it is free. You can download it here.

The only downside to this Collection now being free is that Google no longer support it, so if it is not compatible with a new version of Lightroom or Photoshop, Google won’t fix it. For now it works so I’ll enjoy it while I can.

To open your image go to Photo – Edit In – Color Efex Pro 4. Your image will open in the app.

From Lightroom to Nik Color Efex Pro.png

On the left hand side you can see all the filters available. There are lots of great filters in this app, but there are three that I use for underwater shots.

The first thing I do is add some contrast using the Pro Contrast tool. Have a play around with the sliders being careful not to push them too far. One of the things I love about this collection is the ability to see your before and after on the same image. This really helps with not going too far with your edits.

Color Efex Pro Contrast.png

Once I’m happy with the contrast, I’ll try to bring out a few more details using the Detail Extractor filter. For this image, I found that applying this filter to the entire photo, brought out too much noise in the background, so I used the Control Points to add detail to specific areas of the image.

Color Efex Detail Extractor.png

Lastly, and one of the best tools for underwater images, is the White Neutraliser. Here I’ve pushed it pretty far so you can really see the effect, but it’s great at correcting the colours in your image.

Color Efex White Neutraliser.png

And that’s pretty much it! Press Save and your edited photo will return to Lightroom as a .tif file. You can then carry on editing in Lightroom or Photoshop if you wish.Here's the final image.

Fishes with Nik Color Efex Pro edit.jpg

There are lots of other filters you can use in Color Efex Pro, not to mention the rest of the Nik collection, which are definitely worth a look, but these three filters I find are all I need for my underwater shots.

I’d love to see how you get on using this collection to bring out the best in your photos. Feel free to send me your before and afters, and let me know what you think of this quick tutorial.

Nik Color Efex tutorial