The Best Subjects for Underwater Macro Photography

The best part about underwater photography is the sheer number and variety of subjects to photograph. While it’s cool to spot the big stuff like sharks, rays, turtles etc, some of the best underwater photographs are of the smallest creatures of the sea. One blink and you can miss them. The patterns, textures of colors of these small fish, invertebrates and even coral or anemone is stunning when captured by underwater macro photography. Here’s a look at some of the smaller creatures that are great subjects for macro photography-

With over 3000 varieties of this colorful soft-bodied creatures, the nudibranch is the king of underwater macro photographs. Nudibranchs are found almost all over the world and can vary dramatically in length, between as small as 20 millimeters to a very large 60 centimeters. Underwater photographers and divers truly appreciate the small sea-slug like mollusk and often try to spot and picture as many different colored and types of the 3000 varieties of nudibranchs as they can. (Read: Nudibranchs: An Underwater Enigma)

Underwater Macro Photography- NudibranchUnderwater Macro Photograpphy- Nudibranchs

Leafy Sea Dragon
Emanating from the sea horse family, the leafy sea dragon is a an usual and curious looking animal. Found only along the Australian coastline, it can grow upto 20-24 centimeters in length. They have amazing camouflaging abilities and can often be missed as they blend in with their surroundings, mostly sea grass or between rock formations. The leafy sea dragon bears resemblance to it’s relative the pipefish but features leaf like protrusions allowing it to blend in. They’re an absolute pleasure to watch and photography as they gracefully bob between the grass.

Underwater Macro Photography - Leafy Sea DragonUnderwater Macro Photography - Leafy Sea Dragons

Mantis Shrimp
Contrary to its name, the Mantis Shrimp is actually neither a mantis nor a shrimp, but bears a striking resemblance to both. This crustacean from the Stomatopoda family looks and poses like a mantis while it’s tail and claws are similar to a shrimp. These fierce crustaceans can grow to 30 centimetres (12 in) in length and are quite the predator in shallow tropical waters. The the harlequin mantis shrimp or painted mantis shrimp, more commonly known as peacock mantis shrimp is the prettiest of the 400 odd varieties that range from shades of browns to bright neon colors.

Underwater Macro Photography - Mantis ShrimpUnderwater Macro Photography- Mantis Shrimps

This beauty is native to the Pacific Ocean and found around Indonesian Islands, Micronesia and Australia. Reaching only about 6 cm, this small bottom feeding fish is packed with bright blue shades making them a great subject of underwater photography.

Underwater Macro Photography - MandarinfishUnderwater Macro Photography- Mandarin Fish

Anemone & Clown Fish
A very popular subject of Macro photography underwater is capturing the clown fish in anemone. Not an easy task at all, as the clownfish is tricky to shoot darting in and out of the anemones tentacles. It’s like a game of hide and seek with the camera. However, if you manage to get a shot the picture is reward enough for the effort. They picture magnificently. (Read: Sea Anemone: An Underwater Photographer’s Delight)

Underwater Macro Photography- Anemone ClownfishUnderwater Macro Photography - Clownfish and Anemone

As the list of Macro worthy creatures of the sea is endless look out for more posts on this subject to come!

*Photo credits: Photos by Raymond™, kqedquest, lecates, jeffk42, doug.deep, Enje, Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton, Luc Viatour (, Nemo’s great uncle, CW Ye on flickr

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