What Makes a Great Reef Fish Photo

I don’t feel like I’m going out on a limb here when I say that snorkelers love fish, reef fish in particular. Given the affordability of underwater cameras nowadays, we’ve found that our guests absolutely loooooove to take photos of reef fish while on our snorkel safari. The thing is though, as much as they love taking photos of reef fish, many times the guests just aren’t satisfied with their photos. Having run numerous Snorkel Venture snorkeling safaris with our camera-happy guests and having helped many realize and avoid many of the common pitfalls guests run into while photographing reef fish, I’d like to break down some of the elements that make up a really great reef fish photo.

Subject is in Focus

This is arguably one of the most important elements to any photo, if it’s out of focus it just doesn’t work no matter what.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is really what draws the viewer in, it’s part of what give an image “life.”

Visually Interesting Subject

This is not a super important thing to focus on, but it does help. Don’t get bogged down at finding the most rare and flamboyant creatures to photograph because you’ll no doubt many other great subjects.

Subject Fills at least 1/3 of the Frame

This rule can be broken if you’ve framed the subject right and found a complementary background, but it’s a good rule to follow as a subject that’s just too small in the frame is not likely to grab the attention of the viewer.

Pleasing Composition

There is a lot of room for artistic interpretation here, obviously, but when you’re first starting out it’s a good idea to start with the basics and follow the Rule of Thirds and allow for your subject to have enough “look room” and “headroom” to create a natural balance to the image.

Complementary Background/No Distractions

If we compose a reef fish against a cluttered reef the fish is essentially lost against the chaos of the reef. It’s always best to try to compose fish against a less busy background, like the water, so we can really make our subject stand out. Similarly, we also want to try to keep distracting elements, like a snorkeler’s fins, out of the background. If you are going to include a subject in the background, make sure it’s not cropped.

About Author

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Alex Lindbloom
Alex is a Snorkel Venture and Dive Safari Asia guide as well as the video and photo pros for both companies. Alex is also a field editor for a popular underwater photography magazine. Prior to joining Snorkel Venture in 2018 Alex lived and worked all over the world working as an underwater cameraman, with five of those years living/working on a yacht in Indonesia. Alex's images and videos have garnered many international awards such as Underwater Photographer of the Year and can be seen on NatGeo, Discovery Channel, the UN Building, and various magazines.