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What are split shots?

As more cameras are being made with waterproof abilities, and more nature photographers are venturing into the water, the concept of split shots is becoming more popular. Split shots are also known as over/under, split level and half and half shots. They are quite simply a photograph where the top half of the images is out of the water and the bottom half is under the water. It is a beautiful technique which shows two very different worlds, right next to each other. The best split shots will show different activities, actions or objects in each half of the image. This will create a juxtaposition between the two “worlds”, making the viewer stop and think (see the images below for examples of this).

The concept of shooting a split shot may seem simple, but in practice it is definitely not that easy. There are many extra things to consider when shooting:

  • Lighting - The amount of light above the water will be more than under the water. Therefore, you may need to add more light below the water in the form of a flash. On some cameras you may need to shoot whilst holding the camera upside-down.

  • Focus – Water makes everything appear bigger and closer. So, your focal point below the water will be closer than above the water. The best way to deal with this is to use a big aperture.

  • Waves – Even the smallest of waves can completely ruin your split shot. Try to shoot in calm and clear water to get a straight line between the two sections.

  • Size of lens – Wide angle lenses are best for this type of shot. Using a housing with a dome port will give the best results, because more of it can be in or out of the water at one time.

  • Water droplets – When you lift a piece of plastic or glass out of water, the water will run off it. Unfortunately, small drops are often left behind. By spitting on your housing, you can reduce this problem.

  • Current – water movement can make it very difficult to stay in place whilst you line up and compose your shot. Use fins to help you swim against the current or stay in water shallow enough to stand.

If you want to learn more about split shots please book a specialty course with me where I can work with you in the water to help you get the shots you want.


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