I recently returned from a week-long snorkeling photography workshop in Belize with sixteen guests, all of whom had the famous Olympus TG-6 camera. With so many guests using the same camera, it couldn’t have worked out better! Having spent so much time learning and navigating the different modes, menus, and configurations of this sassy little camera I thought it might be useful to put together a little guide to the TG-6 so everyone can hit the water ready to snap some great photos without stressing about what does what on the camera.
The first thing you should do is turn the little dial on the back so that the little fish icon lines up with the white dash. This will put you in the underwater mode where you can select four different underwater shooting modes.
Underwater Snapshot vs. Underwater Wide
These two modes function pretty much the same, the only difference is that the Underwater Wide mode starts by using the Underwater: Mid Range white balance function indicated by a fish symbol with WB2 next to it. Underwater Snapshot uses the Underwater: Shallow (WB1 + ‘fish symbol’). These Underwater white balance modes can be easily adjusted regardless of whether you are using Underwater Snapshot or Underwater Wide.
Unless you can dive down and hold your breath for a good amount of time I wouldn’t recommend using the Underwater Macro mode. Your best bet is to keep it in Underwater Snapshot or Wide and just zoom in a bit to bring yourself closer to the subject if you absolutely can not get physically closer.
To access these underwater shooting modes without spinning the rear dial again you can press the left button next to “OK” with the icon of a square and a diagonal arrow.
Underwater White Balance
So, now you’ve selected your underwater shooting mode, we just need to select the white balance that will best suite our particular environment so we can bring out the natural colors of the reef. By pressing the OK button on the back, we can access the side panel options on the right of the screen. Toggle through the options using the up and down buttons above and below the center OK button.
When you land on the icon with the fish and WB1, WB2, or WB3 next to it you will see a list of different options on the bottom of the screen. These are your white balance options. The ones with the fish are your underwater white balance options. Above each one it will say “Underwater: Shallow”, “Underwater: Midrange”, and “Underwater: Deep”. You won’t see any color change on your screen regardless of which one you select, that change will happen once you take the photo and the camera analyze the available light in the area. All you need to know is that as you go from WB1 to WB3 you are telling the camera to add more red to the image to restore the natural colors. If you are shallow you will most likely only need WB1 or WB2, if you are photographing in deeper water you will likely want to use WB2 or WB3.
The camera will most likely come with the Flash set to “Auto”. We want to turn this off because all the flash is going to do for our photos is create a bunch of backscatter (little particles) that will end up ruining our image. Unless you are photographing something really close-ups, less than a foot away, you will want to keep your flash off and let the camera’s white balancing do the color correcting.
To turn off the flash, press the button just right of the OK button, the one with the little lightning bolt. On the bottom of the screen, you will have the different flash options which you can move through using the buttons right and left of the OK button. Select the one with “Flash Off”.
RAW vs. JPEG
This is a very important setting to know. RAW images are much larger and require editing software to adjust the colors, brightness, contrast, etc. Once you’ve done that then you can convert or export the image as a JPEG image that you can then share online or with friends. If you plan to edit your photos and are either keen to learn how to edit or already know how to process RAW images then you will want to select the RAW image function.
If you don’t want to have to deal with all of that and just want to do minor adjustments to your image while being able to share them right out of the camera, you will want to stick with the JPEG format.
To select RAW or JPEG you can press the OK button to bring up the side menu, then move up or down until you see the icon just below the white box with the 4:3 in it. It will most likely say LF, or RAW. Regardless of what it comes set to, you will see the menu option on the bottom with the RAW option or the JPEG option indicated with LF (Large image, Fine Detail), or LN (Large Image, Normal Detail), and so on. If you want the RAW option, just select that, if you want the JPEG option I’d suggest going for the LF as it will give you the best quality JPEG possible.
At times when you are taking photos, you might find that your images are coming back too bright, or not bright enough. Even thoug the camera is in an AUTO mode, we can still adjust the exposure by twisting the little dial on the top next to the shutter button. As you twist this button you will see the exposure value change on the bottom of the screen with a +.3 +.7 +1 or a -.3 -.7 -.1 etc. 0 is the middle ground here. You will also of course see the screen get lighter and darker as you spin the top dial.
The TG-6 comes set with the focus point of the camera set to the very center of the frame. For those of you trying to compose images properly by following the rule of thirds, this is annoying. There is a way to move the focus point by pressing the “Menu” button, then toggling up to the first option on the left with the Camera icon and a 1 next to it.
Press the right button once and then move down until you have the AF Area highlighted in yellow. Press “Ok”. Then move down to the middle option with a little square in the middle of two brackets. This will then bring up a grid on your camera’s screen with the focus point highlighted in yellow. You can now move the focus point to any one of these squares and then press OK again.
I do not suggest using the “Tracking” option as the focal point tends to pick up the wrong subject or small particles in the water.
If you do not want to deal with moving the focus point every time you take a photo, best to just leave it in the center of the frame.
Images from the Workshop Participants