Photographing Sunbursts & Sunballs in Anilao - Bluewater Dive Travel
Photographing Sunbursts & Sunballs in Anilao

Photographing Sunbursts & Sunballs in Anilao

Photographing Sunbursts & Sunballs

By Scott Gietler


Viewing a sunburst underwater can be very beautiful. Photographing it can be very difficult.

When taking underwater photographs with the sun in the frame, I recommend you shoot at as fast of a shutter speed as possible, at base ISO for maximum dynamic range. Sunbursts are best in water with some particles in them, so the sunbeams appear in the water. If you are also lighting up a foreground subject with strobes, make sure your shutter speed is as fast as possible without exceed the strobe sync speed of your camera. Sunbursts often have unpleasant rings around them when overexposed, so check your stops and stop down your aperture if needed.

To get a properly exposed sunburst, you will also be shooting at a small aperture, most likely between F11 and F22 (or F8 with a compact camera). To light up a foreground subject at these small apertures, you will either need very strong (expensive) strobes, or you will have to bring your strobes as close to the subject as possible. If necessary, you can remove your strobe diffusers for a little more power. This is where cameras with a fast sync speed have an advantage.


Sunburst and sunball photography tips:

Shoot at a low ISO, high shutter speed, small aperture

If using strobes, get them very close to your subject to ensure they light the subject

Hide the sun behind an object if possible

Sunbeams are very difficult in clear water, it helps if there are some particulates

Sunbeams are best captured close to the surface

Be careful not to over-expose a sunburst. Underexposure is best.

Turn off your strobes for an ambient light shot or silhouette shot, then you can shoot faster than your strobe sync speed

Strong strobes like the Sea & Sea YS-D1, Ikelite DS-160, or YS-250 work well when shooting into the sun at small apertures


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