We are excited to share this tutorial with sarahallegra. Sarah is a Los Angeles-based fine art photographer specializing in conceptual and self-portrait imagery. As a self-taught photographer, she indulged in other forms of artistic expression; from painting to songwriting.  Her photography is darkly ethereal, deeply symbolic and other-worldly. Drawing inspiration from music, books, fairy tales and my own demons, she creates visual poetry through my work.

Here are some amazing insights about this winning photo!

Three tips on how to take awesome underwater photos:
1. Work with an experienced model. It will make your life infinitely easier.
2. If possible, work in a salt water pool instead of a chlorinated one. It's easier on everyone's bodies and eyes.
3. Either choose a time of day when the background will be in shadow or unroll some dark fabric to create a darker background. Your model will stand out against in very dramatically!

Framing Selection:
What are you trying to capture/say?
I usually have my images planned out carefully beforehand, so the framing is already decided upon. In this image, I wanted to show the two figures (both are model Katie Johnson) and have the attention immediately brought to them, with just enough water and reflection around them to tell the viewer that they are underwater.

How do you know if the framing is visually interesting?
Since my images are usually planned out pretty thoroughly beforehand, and often sketched, I'm able to assess its interest before I even pick the camera up. It's usually a gut reaction; is this interesting or not? If not, I play around with different ideas until I hit on something that sparkles.

Are you thinking about perspective?
Shooting this image in a swimming pool, I had to be very conscious of every perspective. There wasn't too much room to move around in, so Katie and I had to be very aware of where we were in relation to walls and light and shadow.

Lighting Selection: 
Are you using tripod?

No, although it might have helped! Getting myself, Katie and my camera all underwater at the same time and pointed in the right directions was a challenge!

Are you using flash?
I used only natural light in this image. I'd planned it for later in the afternoon when the sunlight was a little diffused.

What time of the day was it shot?
About 3 in the afternoon. It was just at the start of winter so the sun was setting earlier than usual.

What aperture settings are you using?
I had my camera set to shutter priority to make sure I kept up with how fast Katie was moving. The aperture in this image ended up being 4.2.

Are you looking for a unique subject?
Underwater shooting is its own specific skill within the world of modeling. Finding someone who can maintain the graceful, uncomfortable poses, hold their breath for long periods of time and maintain and relaxed, natural expression is much harder than you'd think. That's why I was so glad to have Katie model for me in this image; she is highly experienced at underwater work! We also just work together a lot so we're able to communicate quickly and effectively - something very helpful when you're both cold and wet and tired!

Was the photo planned?
Yes, quite carefully! We had about half a dozen different shots planned for that shoot to make the most of having use of the pool. All of them were planned and thoroughly sketched out.

How are you choosing to stay close or far from the subject?
A lot of this was determined by the size of the pool we were shooting in (which was a standard back yard-sized pool) and how much of Katie I wanted in the frame at any time. I used a wider lends than I typically do so that I could shoot her whole body in one frame. I also tried to stick to the shallow end of the pool where the stairs were as they helped give me something to hold onto and keep from floating to the surface quite so quickly!

What is your mindset when it comes to POV?
I knew I wanted Katie to be in the light, but to try and keep as much else as possible in shadow to help draw attention to her. I had her try a few different poses underwater, but the ones in near profile seemed the most striking, so we went with that.

Are you thinking of rule of thirds/how?
I had a good idea of how I wanted the image to look afterwards, and I knew that I'd need to composite two images of Katie into the same picture. That gave me a bit of freedom in this case since I knew I could reposition either of the "Katies" as I needed to.

Are you thinking of symmetry?
I wanted there to be balance but not perfect symmetry.

Are you thinking of reflections?
Yes! I made sure to get shot with her reflection in them. They really make the image say "this is underwater" and add a beautiful depth to the image.

Are you paying attention on the subject only or also background and why?
Definitely both! For light purposes and drawing attention to my subject, Katie's relation to the background was very important. She needed to be far enough away from it to not blend into the background, but not so far away that I couldn't get all of her in one frame.

Are you thinking of the angle? why did you choose this angle?
Some of the angle choices were made for me based on the tight space we were working in. I ended up choosing this angle because it worked best with my pre-planned idea of how it should look and was the most dramatic.
Final Product:
How did you manage to get this shot done?
It was a lot of hard work from both Katie and myself! Underwater work is very tiring but worth it. I made to sure to be in the right place at the right time with the right model!

Did you do any post-processing? if so, what?
Yes, I added a second version of Katie so that there were two figures in the water. I expanded the frame a bit, using other shots from the pool. I played with the colors a bit so that the blue and red were the predominant colors.