Star in Stripes
1 Fully Focused
Patterns are comforting for the eyes and brain, but this means any technical mistakes jar our enjoyment far more than with other types of imagery. It also means that when shooting patterns, you must get the details right. Patterns usually look best with as much of the pattern in focus as possible. Position the camera parallel to the subject and close down the aperture to keep everything sharp. Take extra care with your composition to keep the dominant elements, such as the curls of this crinoid, balanced in the frame.
2 Salad Bowl
Jim Church, the late, great teacher of underwater photography, called random photos showing details of the reef salad-bowl shots. He said those pictures “show a little of everything, but not much of anything.” These are pictures where nothing is really wrong, but there is no subject for the viewer to latch onto and love. You can avoid the salad with careful framing and by just including one type of background — such as the crinoid here — in your shots. Even better, many reef species have commensal critters living on them, which provide the perfect photographic focal point.
3 The Right Light
Macro patterns can be formed from details, textures or colors, and the best lighting technique for one is not the best for all. Color patterns and details look great in even illumination. If you use one strobe, pull it in right above the lens. If you use two, position them on either side of the port and set them to the same power. Patterns of texture stand out clearest with directional lighting, which creates shadows and shows the three-dimensionality of the subject. If you’re using one strobe, move it away from the camera so light comes from the side. If you are working with two strobes, turn one down or off.