For those who dabble, wildlife photography can fast become an obsession, and underwater photography is no exception. Underwater photography poses a whole new set of challenges for practitioners. Many photographers snap hundreds of bad photos — and do not delete them — before deciding which ones to keep. Removing poor images underwater as you take them is cumbersome and bad idea. Thus, when transferring pictures onto your computer later for editing and review, often you’ll need to upload and view hundreds of images.
The nature of backscatter and color in underwater photography also means photos that appear average can actually turn out amazing with minimal editing, such as adjusting your white balance. This method does, however, often eventually leave you with tens of thousands of images — creating an underwater photo storage nightmare. Here are a few tips and lessons learned the hard way to avoid creating this hassle for yourself.
Shoot in RAW; edit in RAW; and keep the RAW
RAW is a common file format for most mid-range digital cameras. The image quality of a RAW file is extremely high, and, unlike a jpeg, it captures all the photo’s information. The easiest way to explain this is that adjusting the white balance on a RAW file is easy while it’s impossible with a jpeg. Your best bet is to save both the jpeg and the RAW if your memory card has room.
You’ll often need the original RAW file when entering a photography competition. This verifies that the image is original and not overly photoshopped. So, although some photographers keep only their jpeg edits, don’t delete your best RAW images. Once you’ve edited a photo and saved it in another format, place the original RAW safely in external storage for future competitions or emergencies.
Name your files properly
Many photographers like to give their images names that don’t contain any information, i.e. “schooling fish.” While you may need a unique title if you’re selling an image, try to add more information for search purposes later. I make it a rule to identify the animal/s in part of the image name, which allows for easy searching when someone wants to see all your seahorse photos, for example.
Locations are a little easier to sort, as generally each dive will form its own folder. You can then name it with the location and the year. Don’t worry about specific months or days, as much of this will reside in the file’s memory (unless you edit images years later). A variant of this system will allow you to easily search for images in the future, i.e., “Gaze into wonder-Seahorse/Melbourne2018.”
Keep the best shots separate
You’ll always have a few favorites you want to show off. As a rule, I never photo dump —uploading all your files to social media at once. This detracts from your best images. It’s always best to keep those that you think you may print or want to send to people as a double in a portfolio folder. This folder should contain a separate folder for each image; within that folder you can keep all the relevant edits such as watermarked copies, print-ready copies or those suitable for websites. Not only does this allow quick and easy access but also if you want to sell or gift a print, you can quickly pull up the original and edit for the desired format.