A new book by Alex Mustard, one of the world's leading underwater photographers, is packed with beautiful images of colourful sea creatures and advice on how to capture photos like these. The book is called Underwater Photography Masterclass, and that's exactly what it aims to be. From information about diving equipment and cameras, to advice on controlling light underwater, this book provides all the background you need before you take the plunge.

Underwater Photography Masterclass by Alex Mustard
Coral Reef Sunset: “This is a split level image showing a scissortail sergeant (Abudefduf sexfasciatus) swimming over hard corals (Acropora sp.) on a shallow reef at sunset off Gubal Island, Egypt. Split level images are not easy to take, but they are important images to underwater photographers because they show viewers a landscape that they know and at the sometime introduce them to something from our underwater world.” Alex Mustard

Mustard says the book is packed with tips that he picked up shooting all around the world: "It includes everything from how to get a pygmy seahorse to face your camera to why you want to flinch first when playing chicken with a basking shark," he says.

Mustard says there are many reasons for his fascination with underwater photography, not least because water covers much more of our planet than land. He says one of the great joys is being able to move freely in three dimensions. "This means I can approach my subjects from whatever angle I choose, selecting the best viewpoint for a photograph," he says. "Imagine how different photography on land would be if everyone could fly?"

Mustard is now one of the world's few full-time underwater photographers, but he started out a marine biologist, getting his PhD when he was 25. He says his scientific training helps him find and identify his subjects and make sense of their behaviour. However, he says it's a challenge not to photograph like a scientist. "Images have to work visually," he says. "I try to capture personality or character in an animal."

Underwater Photography Masterclass features 280 stunning images across 192 pages. It is packed with advice on subjects such as how to go about diving for your images, how to select the appropriate underwater photographic equipment and how to control the lighting. The book presents techniques for the full range of diving conditions, from clear tropical water, to chilly murky conditions.

Underwater Photography Masterclass by Alex Mustard

Dr Alex Mustard's top five tips for starting underwater photography

  1. Your diving skills must be second nature before you take a camera underwater. Not only could the camera be a potentially dangerous distraction, but also a preoccupied photographer might damage delicate marine life.
  2. Get close, then get closer. Shooting through water robs images of colour, contrast and clarity. Underwater photos are usually taken from within touching distance, different lenses allow you to shoot bigger or small subjects.
  3. You can try out underwater photography with a compact and cheap housing or a GoPro. But if you are serious, it is important to invest in quality equipment. The only thing more expensive than the best underwater camera gear, is buying the cheap option and then having to buy the proper equipment afterwards.
  4. You can't change lenses underwater and the best images come when the equipment is optimised for the shot. Good underwater photographers learn not to just snap at anything, but to go underwater with a clear plan of what they plan to shoot.
  5. Strobes are essential for underwater photography. Once you go deeper than snorkelling depths, colours disappear from images and you need to restore them for the most eye catching pictures. The better you can control strobes, the better your underwater photography.

Underwater Photography Masterclass by Alex Mustard, published by Ammonite Press, RRP £19.99, is available in bookstores and online at thegmcgroup.com.