Shooting Sharks

By Marty Snyderman

Shooting Sharks
By Marty Snyderman

No, not for fin soup. This month's question from George B. of San Francisco asks for tips on photographing sharks. George is going on a Bahamian shark dive and wants to know the best way to get the ocean's apex beast to say cheese.

Even though the resorts have good safety records, do not allow yourself to take your safety for granted. Like lions, tigers and bears, sharks are wild animals, so pay heed to the words of wisdom spoken by divemasters who work with them. Divemasters can also help you understand how, when and where to position yourself in order to get the best photographic results.

As is the case in any photographic situation, it is often helpful to ask yourself if you have a specific image in mind that you would like to capture on film, or will you be happy just photographing whatever comes your way? If the answer is the former, do your research. If it's the latter, go with wherever your index finger lands on the map.


Using a slight upward angle and a 20 or 28mm lens will yield the most pleasing results when photographing sharks on shark feeding dives.
Let's say you want to see a frenzied group of Caribbean Reef Sharks and Blacktips circling around a chummy hunk of albacore. You will probably want to use a lens with a comparatively wide angle such as a 15 or 20mm lens. But if you want a full-frame photo of the Reef Shark's mug, you'll want to use a lens with a narrower angle such as a 28 or 35mm lens.

Many photographers assume the lens of choice for any shark dive is the widest lens in their arsenal. However, experience has taught me that even in baited situations it is not always easy to get close enough to sharks to fill your frame with your subject, and the end result is that your image loses its impact. Consider the benefit of using a 20 or 28mm lens as opposed to a very wide lens such as a Nikonos 15mm or a Sea & Sea 12mm fisheye lens. I also suggest that George get comfortable with the setting before taking any pictures.

Once he is ready, George will probably get his most pleasing results if he shoots at a slightly upward angle to get pretty blue water behind the shark. A mixed sand/water background cutting through a subject is usually distracting.

ISO 100 film should be fast enough on a typical Bahamian day. One last word of advice. No matter how your dive proceeds, don't allow your photography to rob you of the purer pleasure of seeing these wonderful animals with the naked eye and then revisiting them through memories.

Please note the Pro's new e-mail address: marty@martysnyderman.com or write him via snail-mail at Marty Snyderman Productions, 638 S. Nardo Avenue, Solana Beach, CA 92075; (858) 793-6266; fax: (858) 793-5324.