In Underwater Macro Photography black subjects are usually not as popular as coloured subjects. First because they tend to be less striking and second because they often cause the background to overexpose. So a lot of photos get deleted from harddrives because either the subject is too dark or the background is blown out. Exceptions are free swimming subjects like black Ornate Ghostpipefish. On a black sand Muckdive like here in Lembeh the background is dark though – and therefor offers a good opportunity to shoot black subjects in a different way. Here you can shoot your black subjects like any other subjects, as the background does not overreact to the light. This becomes very interesting if you are trying to create high key photos with black subjects on black sand – photos that are slightly overexposed.

A slightly overexposed histogram

A slightly overexposed histogram

Step one: Check the Background
When shooting High Key with dark subjects on dark backgrounds you have to check for light coloured items on your background … white stones, light plastic or other items will blow out and possibly ruin the image. Single lighter coloured grains of sand are OK and part of the desired effect.

Step two: Open Aperture
By opening your Aperture you isolate your subject from the sandy bottom which makes it stand out more and creates a dramatic image. And you let more light reach the lens – which leads us to step two …

Step three: Turn up your strobe
Instead of reducing your strobe power after opening your aperture you do the exact opposite: You leave it the same like you would shoot with a more closed aperture or even turn it up a little bit to purposely overexpose.

Good divesites to try this technique are for example Aer Bajo, Hairball, TK or Rojos. Even though the sand is very dark the photos will look like the sand had a grey or creamy colour.