If you've been following along on instagram, we've been sharing lots of fun split (or over/under) images! It's probably the underwater photography subject we get most questions about so sharing some tips and ideas!


Gear matters in this case - well a certain piece of gear. It's not impossible to get a split image with a flat port, but ideally you want a dome port - it helps with underwater distortion, keeps the water at a bit of a distance from your lens, and makes it easier to place the waterline where you want it. Domes are sold not just for the big professional housings, but for GoPros and phone cases as well.

Settings matter too - mainly your aperture. If you want both portions of the image in focus, you need to really close down your aperture, meaning a higher F-stop number. A minimum of F16 or even F22 are your friends here! If you don't care for both portions to be in complete focus, but would like the out of focus half to still be recognizable, you can open up a bit - F4 through F8 have served me well.


Now on to some ideas, because there are so many creative things you can do with overs/unders!

Obviously, the image doesn't have to be split down the middle and be half/half. It could be mostly underwater with a small portion of sky, palm trees or buildings - a hint of the surrounding environment to give the image a sense of place.


Or mostly above the water with a sliver of what's below and the viewer will feel like they're part of the scene.

It doesn't even have to be a straight line either - try catching (or making) a wave for your waterline!

Think about the story you are trying to tell with your image, and make choices to enhance it. Some stories are best told with everything in sharp focus. With others it helps to have a main sharp focus with out of focus supporting elements, lending depth to the image. You can also use split images to tell the whole story to the image, revealing a half otherwise obscured by the water. Or, tell two entirely separate stories in a single frame.

All images copyright Barb Toyama | Maui, Hawai'i

All images copyright Barb Toyama | Maui, Hawai'i

Possibilities are nearly endless so as always, experiment and have fun with it! Which are your favorite kind of over/under images? Share with us in the comments! And don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

See you in the water!

- Barb