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Dive Photo Guide


Top 10 Shark Shots Your Portfolio Is Missing
By DPG Editorial Staff, June 27, 2016 @ 03:00 PM (EST)

Sharks are naturally charismatic photography subjects. Their majesty and prowess comes through even in an out-of-focus, fuzzy image taken from afar.

So the odds are that you have taken your fair share of shark shots. You probably have accumulated many head-on profile images of reef sharks. You may have even been lucky enough to swim with some of the rarer sharks—tigers, hammerheads, or even the great white shark.

But if you really want to take your shark photography portfolio to another level, you’ll need to take it up a notch—whether that means descending to the abyss in a homemade submarine or getting creative with your compositions. Here are the “Top 10 Shark Images Your Portfolio Is Missing.”


1. The Shark Silhouette Shot

Those fortunate enough to spot a shark on a dive probably aren’t keen to turn off your strobes. Lots of people have great images of shark profiles, but silhouette images of these apex predators are much rarer. Many shark species have a unique shape that really shines when silhouetted from below. For single subjects, try to position the shark between your lens and the sun, which will create a halo-like effect.

With their iconic shapes, sharks make for ideal silhouette subjects. Some species, such as hammerheads, are even more suitable for these types of shots


2. The Slow Shutter Shark Shot

One of the disadvantages of still photography compared to film is the challenge to capture a sense of movement or excitement. One tool still photographers do have is the combination of rear-sync flash and slow shutter speed. With rear-sync flash, the strobes fire at the end of the shutter action, rather than the beginning. When matched with a slower shutter speed (1/10–1/50s, depending on the speed of the subject), the movement of the shark will be slightly blurred, creating a sense of motion.

Creating motion blur with a slow shutter speed and rear-flash sync helps communicate a feeling of motion and excitement in your shark shots


3. The Freedivers and Sharks Shot

Sharks are naturally skittish creatures—with many species scared off just by your scuba bubbles. While maybe you don’t have the training to ditch the scuba tank, you can still have a freediver friend model alongside the sharks. This can be as simple as including a freediver just below the surface on a shark snorkel. Or, if you have access to some world-class freedivers, they can pose at depth on a shipwreck or take an underwater coffee break.

Not all shark and freediver shoots have to be elaborate, like this one in the Bahamas. Start off at the surface or at a comfortable depth, using the freediver as a secondary compositional element


4. The Sharks at Night Shot

Night diving isn’t just about the small stuff. Many species of sharks, especially reef sharks, actively hunt at night. Sometimes, the sharks appear to use divers’ lights to help locate vulnerable reef fish. That is bad for those fish, but good for you! Images of sharks at night are much more unique, as it frames the stunning subjects against a stark black backdrop.

Sharks during the day—awesome. Sharks at night—even more awesome!


5. The Over-Under Shark Shot

Over-unders (or split images) are a great way to connect viewers to the often-unseen underwater world by including familiar topside scenes. This effect is all the more important with sharks, which hold a foreign, sensationalized image in the mainstream media. The best part is, you don’t even have to get in the water: Sometimes curious sharks will come right up to a boat and all you have to do is dip your camera halfway into the water.

In this image, sharks in the waters off of Yap, Micronesia gather near the surface by a dive boat


6. The Schooling Shark Shot

If an image of one shark is inspiring, how do you describe an image with 20, 200, or 2,000 sharks? Some species of sharks—such as scalloped hammerheads—school together in mass numbers, which is a truly otherworldly sight. For larger schools, you’ll benefit from turning off your strobes and using ambient light to expose the scene. Converting to black and white can also help increase the contrast in the image.

Hammerheads and silkies are two species of sharks that are known to school in the hundreds. Try using manual white balance or a color-correcting filter to bring back color and contrast


7. The Deep Sea Sharks Shot

Think you’ve photographed every shark species? What about a Caribbean rough shark, or a sixgill shark? Odds are you haven’t even seen these rare, deep-sea sharks unless you’ve traveled 2,000 feet underwater in a submarine. DPG Photo Editor Lia Barrett traveled into the depths of the Cayman Trench in a homemade submarine to bring home these images—talk about pushing the limits!

Hop aboard a private deep-sea submarine to photograph the sharks of the dark


8. The Local Shark Shot

If you live on or near the ocean, there’s a good chance that sharks aren’t too far away—so there’s no need to hop on a plane for hours. In fact, some of the most sought-after species may be closer than you think. You can photograph mako and blue sharks on both coasts of the United States (San Diego and Rhode Island). The Atlantic coast of Florida serves up aggregating lemon sharks, tigers and hammerheads. Across the pond, the United Kingdom’s Cornwall coast is a popular spot to swim with large basking sharks.

Mako sharks can be found off the coast of Rhode Island, just two hours north of New York City. San Diego, California is also an urban location with access to these pelagic sharks


9. The Shark Conservation Shot

Although conservation efforts such as sanctuaries and finning bans have helped bolster populations in recent years, many shark species remain popular targets for commercial fishing. In some cases, the sharks are able to escape with just some scaring or a hook stuck in the corner of the mouth. Taking images of sharks displaying signs of abuse or—sad as it is—caught in nets can serve as a powerful visual tool for conservation.

Blue sharks are common targets for sport fishing off of the Atlantic coast. In this image, the viewer sees the consequences of shark fishing in the form of a leftover hook


10. The Shark Selfie Shot

Let’s face it: Selfies are here to stay. And that includes underwater selfies with sharks. While we are not advocating turning your back to these powerful predators, taking images of tourists doing so can have quite unique results. You never know: That selfie shot might just go viral.  

Instead of taking your own selfie (tempting, we know), try taking a picture of another diver taking a selfie. We won’t judge if you just end up taking a selfie for Instagram



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