Photo Anatomy: creating underwater portraits that look like paintings

Photo Anatomy: creating dramatic underwater portraits that look like paintings

In our Photo Anatomy series on Digital Camera World we select pictures by famous photographers and explain point by point what makes them work.

Igor Kraguljac’s dramatic photo was inspired by Renaissance painting. It’s a visually stunning image, but how did he take it? We have the answers in our latest instalment…

Photo Anatomy: creating dramatic underwater portraits that look like paintings

Giving directions
Kraguljac and his model  were submerged in a swimming pool for the shoot. They both held their breath and communicated using hand signals.

It was essential to freeze both the movement of the model and the material billowing around her. Kraguljac used settings of 1/125 
sec at f/8, while noise was kept to 
a minimum with an ISO of 200.

Igor used a Canon EOS-1Ds 
Mark III with a Canon 17-40mm, inside an Ewa-Marine U-B Series underwater housing. To light the model he used a JTL Mobilight 301 strobe, modified with a 72×48-inch softbox.

Inspired by artist Caravaggio’s dramatic ‘chiaroscuro’ lighting, Kraguljac shot his model against a black background. The single light was placed directly above the model, 15 inches above the water’s surface, and fired using a wireless radio transmitter.

Finishing touches
At the post-capture stage, Kraguljac enhanced the contrast levels and made some colour saturation changes. The most time-consuming task, however, was to clone out hundreds of little bubbles around the model.

We say
“You don’t need an expensive lighting set up to get the strong chiaroscuro effect that Kraguljac achieved. 
An angle-poise lamp or an off-camera flash can work just as well. The trick is positioning it properly to the side of your subject. Experiment with different positions and review test shots on your SLR’s LCD screen.”
Chris Rutter, technique editor


Famous Photographers: 100 things we wish we knew starting out
How to see photos like famous photographers… every time you shoot
14 portrait photography tips you’ll never want to forget
54 Portrait Ideas: free downloadable posing guide