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Tobias Friedrich: Painting with Light Underwater



Getting the light right is imperative for all types of photography, but in underwater photography it can single-handedly make or break an image. Professional underwater photographer Tobias Friedrich revealed his secrets at the Deepblu Expert Spotlight Sessions at DEMA 2016 in Las Vegas.

In his seminar Painting with Light in Underwater Photography, Friedrich used case studies to show how he created his own images, illustrated key lessons and shared scores of useful tips and techniques for controlling the light in underwater photography with the audience.

The Challenges of Light Underwater

“To produce truly stunning images, photographers must understand the basic principles of how light behaves underwater,” explained Friedrich. Balancing both the amount and direction of light is key, as it determines which parts light up, how much backscatter appears, or whether shadows are created.

The only source of light for this image was the dive torch of the diver, which is illuminating the amphorae on this ancient Roman wreck in the Mediterranean Sea near Loano, Italy.

Underwater photographers must also master mixed lighting; that is, the combination of natural and artificial light. Light is absorbed in much greater amounts by water than by air. Especially at deeper depths, the sun’s rays do not provide enough light to produce aesthetically-pleasing images, and diver-photographers must use artificial light sources to compensate for the natural light that is lost to absorption.

Working with Strobes

“Artificial strobes and the light of a buddy’s dive torch were used to bring out the colors of the red, yellow and orange soft corals in this photo taken at the Brother Islands, Red Sea, Egypt.

The most generic tools for introducing artificial light to underwater photography come in the form of strobes. External strobes are attached directly to the camera or its housing, while slave strobes can be placed in different places and activated using either an electrical cord or optical sensors. How many strobes you use depends entirely on your goal: one strobe is good if you only want to light up part of a picture, whereas two strobes are usually powerful enough to light up the entire scene.

Friedrich also suggested experimenting with a slave strobe set up on a flexible tripod, as light from a strategically-placed strobe provides more depth of field. “You don’t always need to limit yourself to strobes,” he said. “There are other options, such as your buddy’s dive torch, a video light and, of course, the sun’s rays.”

Working with Natural Light

Friedrich encouraged photographers to let the sun do part of the work as well by shooting against the sun. According to Friedrich, these shots can be done best in the early mornings or late afternoons. At these times, most of the sun’s rays reflect off the water surface and only some rays get through, providing ideal lighting conditions and preventing images from getting ‘burned out’.

“You may have to get a little creative in order to catch the right moment,” Friedrich suggests. “Many dive operators have fixed sailing times but often you can work out a deal so they take you out in the lighting conditions you desire.”

Natural light from the sun is all it took to light up this panoramic view of a hard coral reef at Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

Try, Try and Try Again

“Photographers must always be thinking about what can be adjusted to make improvements,” said Friedrich. “Should I change the angle of the camera? Would getting closer or farther from my subject make a difference? What position should strobes be in and how should I set the settings? Does this scene need background lighting?” Moreover, you don’t always have the luxury of a captive subject. It takes a lot of practice to set up your gear in time to capture a fast-moving subject.

“Most published images are the result of a process of trial and error,” Friedrich concluded. “Even the most experienced photographers take countless images before getting it even close to right. Snap a photo; see how it turned out; make a small adjustment; then take another shot. If you think you’re satisfied with your picture, try even harder, and you will get a better image every time..”

About Tobias Friedrich

Tobias Friedrich is an award-winning German underwater photographer whose images have appeared in countless online magazines and other publications, including Red Bull, BBC, The Times, Scuba Diving Magazine, and US Sport Diver. Countless underwater photographic competitions such as Smithsonian’s Ocean ViewsOcean ArtEpson Red SeaBeneath the Sea, and Celebrate the Sea have honored his work. Tobias is always keen to take up new challenges and loves to experiment with new, creative ways to create the best underwater images.

Learn more about Tobias at

Deepblu is a diving technology company which has created the first social network for scuba divers, freedivers, underwater photographers and other ocean-lovers. Deepblu also produces the COSMIQ+ Dive Computer. Divers wanting to give Deepblu a shot can try it out today at, and those interested in the COSMIQ+ Dive Computer can go to


Ryan Jones is a Community Editor at Deepblu, a diving technology company which has cretedt the first social network for scuba divers, freedivers, underwater photographers and other ocean-lovers. Deepblu also produces the COSMIQ+ Dive Computer. Divers wanting to give Deepblu a shot can try it out today at, and those interested in the COSMIQ+ Dive Computer can go to

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Rowen Hemsley-Harding, third place winner of the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-large, chats to Rowen Hemsley-Harding, third place winner of the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition. The See you at the Sea Festival was an online film festival created by young people, for young people.

Rowan’s film – Ocean Art and Facts – can be seen here:

Fourth in a series of six videos about the competition. Watch the first video HERE with Jenn Sandiford – Youth Engagement Officer with the Your Shore Beach Rangers Project and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust – to find out more about the Competition. Each day this week we will be sharing one video in which Jeff talks with the young contestants about their films and what inspired them.

For more information please visit:

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NUPG Lockdown Best of…



Usually the January NUPG meeting involves a guest judge coming to Manchester to talk through the very best images members had taken in the previous 12 months. However, this year, due to COVID19 restriction many of the members had not had the chance to dive. The NUPG committee decided to change the rules a little. So this year members judged a series of Best of the Century images online and were also invited to take part in a lockdown underwater bath tub category.

There were five categories for members to enter. Here are the winners of each…

British and Irish Close Up

Octopus in St Abbs Marine Reserve by Mike Clark

British and Irish Wide Angle

A Basking Shark off the coast of Cornwall by Nick Robertson-Brown

Overseas Close Up

A squid at night in the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia by Ken Byrne

Overseas Wide Angle

Hammerhead Sharks in the Red Sea by Justin Beevor

Under Bath Water

Lockdown fun in the tub by Caroline Robertson-Brown

The next NUPG meeting will be held on Monday 8th February and the guest speaker is John Bantin.

For more information on the NUPG please visit their website by clicking here.

Header image: Lionfish hunting in the Red Sea by John Spencer

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This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email to book your spot!

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