When it comes to getting the perfect shot, there’s no doubt that patience and experience go a long way. However, when your subject is one of the top apex predators on the planet, it’s helpful to know a few more tips and tricks. Shark-bite survivor, shark advocate, surfer, and photographer Mike Coots shares some of his secrets to getting incredible imagery of one of our favorite marine life species.
Really know your sharks or go with someone who does. The success rate of shooting a great shark image goes up exponentially in locales with healthy shark populations. Examples include a reef with lots of biomass and diversity, or a shark congregation site. I highly suggest if you are shooting with great whites, tiger, or bull sharks to only dive with those extremely competent in that specie at that location. Someone who is diving with these sharks day in and day out. This cant be overstated. Safety is paramount.
Get something unique. I think the potential for incredibly gorgeous, engaging shark imagery is just starting to be realized. Create your own style. There are so many exciting ways to shoot sharks, with creative lighting situations and interesting compositions. I’ve been experimenting with using a longer focal length lens. I see a lot of shark photography, and underwater imagery in particular, photographed with a very wide or fisheye lens. Some of the best places to shoot sharks have incredible water visibility, which allows the shooter to position themselves further away from the subject without worrying about the clarity diminishing. You can also get great details showing off the shark’s unique beauty, like the stunning eyes of a lemon shark. Tell a story that hasn’t been told.
Be comfortable in your diving. Underwater photography can be technically difficult and consume your entire thought process during the dive. You want your dive gear on point, and your diving experience to be second nature. If you are fiddling with gear, constantly defogging your mask, underweighted, etc., you won’t be able to get into a comfortable shooting rhythm and it may inhibit your ability to stay keenly aware of the shark’s behavior.
Have fun! Shark photography is seriously fun, and I feel, a real honor and unrivaled experience in nature. How lucky that we can photograph one of Earth’s top apex predators? I am a firm believer that you get interesting photographs by shooting interesting subjects. It doesn’t get more interesting than sharks. The fun of the actual dive is easily met by the joy on the beach or the boat immediately after. I promise, you will have the biggest smile ever looking at your images of these magnificent creatures and sharing them with others.
Share it! Share your shark photography with the world. It’s never been a better time to showcase your work to others than right now. Between social media, online contests, blogs, etc, the possibilities of sharing your images is unbound. Let the world know how incredibly special sharks are, and inspire others to learn more. Many shark species are being threatened at unsustainable rates around the globe and they need all they help they can get. As a diver and a photographer, you’re in a unique position to share your love of sharks. I encourage you to leverage the power of photography to invoke change, inspire, and educate!
Through the power of storytelling and his photography, Mike hopes to show people that sharks aren’t the mindless killers portrayed in the media. Join him on a dive with sharks at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas: