The anatomy of… underwater black and white photography

An underwater black and white picture by Alex Mustard
Reading Time: 2 minutes

While shooting photos of brilliant corals and nemo fish in monochrome might seem counter-intuitive, the results can be stunning.

Where many underwater holiday photos end up being too blue or fail to capture the contrast of the technicolour underwater world, taking photos in black and white enables you to capture a more dramatic mood high in contrast and tone.


See the world you’re looking at from a different perspective. Your eye first needs to do the work to find the shot you want, not the camera. As underwater photographer Alex Mustard states in a recent article for Sport Diver, you need to ‘think in black and white’.

Don’t rush. Instead take the time to stop and look around. Don’t be afraid to wait, camera poised, for a timid fish to decide that you’re okay before it swims in front of you.

A underwater black and white picture of a shark by Alex Mustard


Monochrome works best when shooting wider landscapes, rather than micro images. Have one subject as the main focal point of the image, consider putting the subject off centre, or capture big sealife in silhouette against the natural light.


Another tip from Alex Mustard: ‘The art of shooting great monochrome images is to imagine the scene as a black and white, while adjusting for composition and visual light. When I plan to shoot black and white, I set the picture control of my Nikon to Monochrome, adding additional contrast and the in-camera orange filter so the display on the back of my camera appears in black and white.’

More Inspiration

Want to learn more?  See some of Alex Mustard’s work here and read the full article at SportDiver for more tips on shooting in black and white.

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