What Is Backscatter in Underwater Photography

Photography is a profession and pass time for so many people. This can be done in a number of ways and in various settings, including underwater. Those who enjoy shooting underwater will have a lot of factors that need to be consider. This type of setting can present many obstacles, especially when it comes to lighting, and is not the easiest to do successfully. Underwater photography – what is backscatter should be considered by those interested in this style.

Generally speaking, backscatter is something that these photographers want to avoid. This is especially the case when they are employing internal flash or strobes. Backscatter is mostly caused by flash or strobes lighting up the particles and matter found in water. It can be challenging to avoid.

The water that most of these photographer shoot in is never entirely clear. There are all type of particles floating around the water that will disrupt the shot, especially if a lighting device is used. Because the lighting conditions under the water are less than ideal, most do use lighting sources to improve the quality of the picture, which increases their risk of backscatter.

Backscatter is mostly seen when there is a strobe positioned next to the lens, for instance: the internal flash of point-and-shoot cameras. It will typically be worse when the subject has been far away. This is also an issue common when the water is filled with sand or plankton. Shooting photos in open water tends to show more of this than if the subject has a reef that is behind it.

Backscatter Turtle

In order to reduce this, photographers will employ two strobes that are far from the lens. These light up a subject with the edge of light beams. It is best when these are wider out and point outward slightly. For very close shooting, strobes could be pulled in further so that the edge of the cones touch a subject by the strobe light are still pointed outward.

There are ways that this can be avoided. Those who have external strobes should employ the right position of them. They should be set wide and away from the port and never pointed toward the subject. Photos should be taken far away from other people who are underwater. Photographers are encouraged to use correct fins, learn the frog-kicking technique, and work on perfecting their buoyancy.

Photos should only be taken within a couple inches of the port, in macro mode or with a fisheye lens. Photographers are encouraged to find areas where there is decent visibility. Typically this is near the surface, deep down or in a protected area of a reef. Do not shoot against open water. Shoot the subject with a reef behind it, as this can be effective for preventing the backscatter.

People interested in underwater photography should learn more about this. After all, it can greatly impact the quality and overall look of their images. The water may appear to have clarity, but there is still likely a lot of particles floating around that are easily capture when flash or some other light source is used while shooting.

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