Blue Background Macro Photography

June 12th, 2017

Blue Background Macro Photography

Blue Background Lionfish

ISO 200, f11, 1/250

Macro photography is certainly the most popular form of underwater photography with thousands of people posting macro images on social media every day. There are many ways to compose a stunning macro photograph from isolating the subject from the background with DOF to a solid black backdrop. However, one of the more underused compositional tools is the solid blue background. There are endless different shades of blue that can be captured, but for the blue macro style, a light and bright blue is preferred to a darker blue. Shooting a blue background is not that difficult but it does depend on a few factors to get the right shot. Following are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when shooting a blue background macro photo:


  1. Shoot Up – this should go without saying, the best way to get a nice blue in the background is to get low and shoot toward the surface
  2. Avoid a Background – in order to achieve a blue background, there must not be anything (or just a little bit) blocking the water surface
  3. Shoot When the Sun is Bright – the best time to attempt these photos is when the sun is high, say between 10am and 2pm, in order to have enough natural light to capture a brilliant blue
  4. Stay Shallow – similar to the point above, the more natural light the better, therefore these shots work better at a shallow depth
  5. Pay Attention to Shutter Speed – the key to a dark, black background is using a very fast shutter speed, therefore, to get a nice blue background a slower shutter speed is typically needed. However, don’t use too slow of a shutter speed or the subject can suffer from blurring. By staying shallow and shooting when the sun is high, a reasonable shutter speed such as 1/125 can be used to capture a nice blue. Study the shutter speeds of the attached photos to see the differences that time of day and available light can create.


Here are some samples of one image that didn’t work and two images that did, the settings are included in the caption.  Note the difference in the time of day of each image and the shutter speed used.


Too slow blue background

This shutter speed is too slow and the time of day is too late for a nice blue background resulting in blur and a murky blue ISO 200, f13, 1/30, 4:30pm


Trumpet Fish Blue Background

ISO 200, f16, 1/60, 2pm


Blue Background Anthias

ISO 200, f13, 1/200, 11 am

It’s that easy, however, nothing will help more than a bit of practice to get this style of photography dialed in. Next time you are out shooting macro photography, try to find a suitable subject such as a wire coral goby to practice on.  Stay tuned to our Underwater Photography Tutorials page to learn more easy underwater photography tips and tricks.