Take Fun Underwater Selfies with Ocean Wildlife, heres how...

Jun V Lao, Photography, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving
Taking Underwater Selfies with ocean wildlife gets more people excited about the oceans and its inhabitants, seriously...
Every human on planet earth has probably got an underwater selfie or two using a go pro mounted on a selfie stick or a compact camera while frolicking in the pool or by the touristy white beach front. Picture yourself though having selfies with thousands of shoaling fish as your back drop or a giant Manta Ray hovering on top of you, Thats gonna take your Selfie collection to a whole new level. 

Here some of my favorite underwater selfies I've taken with various marine life through the years and will be adding Ten Tips on how to take selfies with marine wildlife like a boss.

Jun V Lao, Photography, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving
Underwater Selfie with a giant Manta at Manta Point, Nusa Penida, Indonesia, 
Tip No. 1- Relax

When you are new to diving, you notice that marine wildlife kind of eludes you. Animals can sense excitement and they can mistake that high energy vibe as a threat and see you as an aggressor. Try to contain your excitement, chillax, make no sudden movements, anticipate your subjects path, get close slowly, and take that epic selfie
Jun V Lao, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving, Dive Philippines
Close encounter with an uber friendly Sea Turtle taken at Matu point Anilao

Tip No. 2- Master your Buoyancy Skills

When at a bar, you avoid the path of the drunk guy or gal right? Without the proper buoyancy skills, all you're movements will be drunk like and scares the marine life away. Go diving with finesse, dive like a boss, and get more wildlife to get closer to you at their own volition.

Jun V Lao, Photography, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving, Dive Philippines
Sardine Run got my back, Moalboal Philippines

Tip No. 3- Breath out through your... Nose

When using current recreational scuba diving regulators, breathing out through your reg causes noisy bubbles which scares the fish away. It's either you adapt to breathing out through your nose  to minimise the noisy bubbles or buy a diving rebreather which costs an arm and a leg, or learn free diving which is the much cheaper and rewarding option but bottom time will be limited. Its all up to you.  Breathing out through your nose is the best method to be less noisy while Scuba diving with your traditional reg, enabling you to get close to marine wildlife, Try it, thank me later....  

Jun V Lao, Photography, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving, Dive Philippines
Whaleshark Selfie using ambient light.

Tip No. 4- Try to take pics with the SUN in front of you

thanks Andy for pointing out, its a selfie, not a wide angle scene, light should be in reverse, in front, not sun behind your back :)
Most people think photography is about shooting subjects and scenes. Not quite...selfie photography is actually about how you capture light as it falls on your fish and YOU (since this is a selfie article :) ). While we may not control the movements of fish, we can stay in an area where the light can fall properly on us, and throw a prayer that your subject decides to swim behind you, sharpen those anticipation skills of yours, they are innate. Follow tips 1-3 and you'll have a high success rate with this one.

Jun V Lao, Photography, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving, Dive Philippines
Holy Grail selfie, one of the rarest most sought after fishes by Underwater Photographers
Tip No. 5- Know Your Subject's Habitat

While taking regular selfies doesn't require much planning, having a wefie moment with ocean wildlife takes more research and organization. Don't expect to get hand outs from the ocean. There is a reason why some resorts are more popular to photographers and why superstar dive master spotters have sprouted like mushrooms in recent years, they simply enable you to get the shot which you've imagined. Its either that or you personally become a good spotter yourself, which is achievable, it just takes a little bit more time, more dives, dedication and much research.

Jun V Lao, Photography,Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving, Dive Philippines
Selfie with a Crown Jellyfish, Oslob Philippines
Tip No. 6- The Distance is One to Three Feet Away

Yup, thats right folks, getting awesome selfies with wildlife is done from a distance of 12- 36 inches. While your position is finite (arms length), ensure your marine subject is like within the 12 inch range for small to medium wildlife (e.g. subjects up to 2 feet in size), Two feet for subjects the size of an adult Turtle and Three feet for big fish like Whales and Manta Rays (subjects which can be up to 30-50 feet in size)

Jun V Lao, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving, Dive Philippines
Selfie with a Giant Frogfish taken in Bauan Batangas Philippines

Tip No. 7- Arm yourself with the proper camera and lens

While i've discussed the distance you need to be at with Tip No. 6, I'm sharing with you now what camera or lens you should use. 

The answer is simply find a camera which can take at least 170 degrees field of view (180 degrees is the best), where the cheapest option is a Go Pro or an SJ4000

Using a DSLR, a Tokina 10-17mm lens is best for cropped body cameras (either Canon or Nikon) 

For full frame Canons, a 15mm fisheye lens is best and for Nikon Full frame cameras, the proprietary 14mm fisheye lens is the optimum choice.  

For Micro Four third cameras, an 8mm fisheye would be best. 

Compact cameras have a field of view of roughly 90-120 degrees, do your research on finding the best wide angle conversion lens out there, make sure it gives your camera an extra 170 degrees field of view so it wont be a waste of money from your end


Jun V Lao, Photography, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving, Dive Philippines
Selfie with a Hairy Frogfish
Tip No. 8- What should my Lighting be...

I've divided this tip simply into two parts..

1. Go Pro or SJ4000

Back to Tip No. 4, make sure you have the sun rays in front of you. if you don't have artificial light with you. If you got, a Torch light with at least 2,000 lumens can help you light up yourself and your subject, whether its a selfie video or image, just remember the One to Three feet rule. Position your light behind the housing.

2. DSLR's, Micro Four Thirds and Compact

For ambient light, same rules apply with a go pro and SJ4000 but if you've got strobes with you...

2a. Strobes should be positioned like Mickey Mouse ears and the front diffuser behind the rear/ backend or your underwater housing, so you wont burn the bottom and over expose your epic selfie (mickey mouse ears position) image plus eliminate backscatter (tip of strobe diffuser behind rear of housing)

2b. Again, One to Three feet rule applies, so your light will reach your intended subject (for strobe users) beyond this distance, I suggest using manual white balance with your strobes off. 

2c. Use the correct lenses for DSLR, Micro 4/3's and compact, mindful of the shared distance, and all your resulting selfies will be epic-ly lit...

For selfie with sunbursts, (thats sunlight behind your back right?) will probably discuss it on a future post but for giddy selfie peeps...quick answer... Set your Shutter to 1/250, Fstop at 18, iso at 100 and strobes at full power, if the surface is flat water, you get a majestic selfie with Jesus light

Jun V Lao, Photography, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving, Dive Philippines
Welfie with a Seahoese with my cousin Agu, Sunview Anilao, Philippines
Tip No. 9- I've  Got my Buoyancy,  Distance, Camera Gear and Lighting Position in Check 
....What settings do I use?

We all have to start somewhere right? Most casual photographers don't get into the manual settings of the camera since there are too many numbers to contend with (shudder with the thought). To simplify the life for newbie selfie users, here is an expanded Tip No. 9

1. Simplest Way- Go Pro/ SJ4000, Sun in Front of you, let your action cam do the rest

2. DSLR & Mirrorless Camera- 
Start at 
  • Shutter 1/160 (how fast your shutter clicks)
  • Aperture F9 (how wide your shutter opens)
  • iso 200 
  • forget all other settings like EV, etc..etc.. they will just fry your brain
  • with your flash power at Half

> I suggest if picture to dark, just increase the power of your strobe, if too bright, do the opposite

3. Compact Camera (with the proper wide angle wetlens)
  • Shutter 1/125
  • Aperture F5.6, 
  • iso 100 (forget all other settings like EV, etc..etc.. they will just fry your brain) 
  • with your flash power at Half
> again, adjust lighting if too bright or too dark, just adjust the power of your strobe (simple up down)

Jun V Lao, Photography, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving
Selfie with Nemo :D



Tip No. 10- HAVE FUN

Underwater Selfies have a more disarming effect to viewers vs traditional wide and macro photography. For one, you're in it, by default an ocean ambassador to your sphere of influence (friends) . Two it's kinda like showing off (yes it is) and taking a Selfie with Marine life gets viewers kind of more involved with the image, picturing themselves as the one taking that Underwater selfie and wanting to have one for their own. In the process of wanting to have an epic underwater selfie themselves with marine life, they start researching about our oceans and voila, new future ocean ambassadors are pending for scuba or free diving certification agencies.


Jun V Lao, Underwater Photography, Scuba Diving
Have Fun, Get Creative, stop drooling over silly gear and start salivating for future trips....

Being a dive pro for quite some time, I forgot that Scuba diving and underwater photography is about fun, not being a slave to how many likes you get on Facebook (which makes people do strange things, fair weathered friends in mind), but then again, with having an underwater epic selfie, you'll have good fun counting the likes from your buddies, old and incoming...

Jun V Lao, Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography
Checking out armpit of Nurseshark at Alimatha Maldives


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passion photographer, cafe racer fanatic

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