Nuance (/nyooonss/): noun a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, colour, etc. (via

...and perhaps one of the least discussed, under-rated concepts in underwater photography.

As I've alluded to previously, everyone taking underwater photographs these days, whether for fun or for work, faces an interesting conundrum. The arrival of digital technology means that an increasing number of people are taking photos underwater, which naturally results in a growing number of photographs.

Moreover, the arrival of photo-sharing sites and such on the internet means that a good proportion of those photos are uploaded every day, and an ever-growing proportion of dedicated divers around the world see those photos.

On the one hand, this democratisation of underwater photography is absolutely fantastic; and yet, on the other, it gives rise to a do you make your photographs stand out from the flood of digital images created every day?

Of course, this isn't a new issue, but the sheer number of great images being created and uploaded each day from all around the world means that the need to understand and respond to such changes has become increasingly acute.

In this context, nuance is an invaluable concept. More specifically...taking photographs of the same things as everyone else, perhaps even the same exact subject...but doing it with just a sprinkle of originality...enough to make your images look different from the hundreds or even thousands of images of the same subject.

To illustrate, this is an image of a pair of Coleman shrimp (Periclimenes colemani) on a fire urchin at the Laha II dive site in Ambon:

coleman shrimp

It's not a bad picture (setting aside for a moment the fact that the big one has a visually distracting deformity), but then again, if you do a quick Google seach on the term "coleman shrimp", you'll get several hundred thousand results. Not all will have images, but many will...and many will have images that are similar to, if not nearly identical to, this one.

If you visit Ambon and dive Laha II, you'll find Coleman shrimp on every dive, unless you're completely blind or totally out of luck. They're all over the place. Faced with this situation, many people, after taking an obligatory number of snapshots, never give the shrimp another look.

But actually, Laha II is one of the best places for applying nuance to these colourful crustaceans...simply because there are so many of them in relatively easy diving conditions.

The following photo, for instance, isn't radically different from the one above, but it's just different enough to perhaps stand out if there were a bunch of Coleman shrimp photos lined up side-by-side.

coleman shrimp


Besides having prettier, non-deformed shrimp, as the photographic subject, there's a subtle change in mood, deriving from a shallower depth of field than people normally apply to this subject, along with a subtle difference in light.

The light hits the shrimp in the foreground, making it stand out from the relatively darker background, but then falls off rapidly, leaving the shrimp in the background slightly underexposed. There's enough light so you know there's a second shrimp there, but not enough to feel the need to see every detail.

A slight change in angle works in this instance too, by complementing the nuance in depth of field and lighting, i.e., they work well together.