If you have a decent DSLR Camera, as a lot of reef vendors and enthusiast do, you probably have a lot of questions as to how in the world some of these people get pics to look the way they do, as you think to yourself, does that coral really look like that? Well, that’s a great question with a myriad of good answers. Now, I am by no means an authority on photography, but I have managed to learn just enough over the years about how to shoot coral to have a decent understanding of how different lighting can affect the coral and the shot entirely. It's not an easy thing to master, and in saying that, by no means do I entertain any sort of accolade about my own skill, as I am still learning just as much as anyone else, but I’d like to try and share a few easy tips with you on how to achieve that near majestic exposure we are seeing more and more of. Every DSLR has an internal setting for a custom white balance. Think of it like auto spell but for white balance. Once you've set your preset, it just crunches away in the background, correcting the white balance the best it knows how. The problem, much like with auto spell (at least for me, because I am a terrible typer) is that, sometimes it doesn’t know the word at all, and will piece together whatever it can to make something sensible out of the garble that I punch in. Such is the way your custom WB function works. Especially in a hyper blue type setting, and I am really simplifying the mechanics of this process, but it’s working so hard to correct that extreme light, that it essentially “plugs in” whatever it can to make sense of the data, often resulting in something much farther away then the intended outcome. In coral photography, that result can be very pleasing. However in most cases, a bit too pleasing... So, today I have decided to do a step by step tutorial on exactly how some of these otherworldly pics are actually taken. Now I realize that this isn’t really all that constructive. If anything a little low brow and maybe even a bit smarmy on my part. More of deliberate jab at some of the guys taking these kinds of pics and fooling you time and again with them. After this brief but detailed tutorial, you too will be able to take those kinds of pictures; the glowing yellows and reds, and the silky electric oranges that we all drool over time and again. At the very least, if you take anything away from this, you'll understand how easy it is to turn a good looking coral into a jaw dropping coral, without even coming near a saturation slider. Now I'm not singling anyone out here either I promise. This is not written for or at any specific vendor or commercial hobbyist, but if this write up makes you feel a little introspective at all, then I'm talking to you for sure. For the sake of the lesson, I am going to just go ahead list the steps numerically with appropriate images in place. These functions are specific to Cannon, but I’d guess the Nikon settings are similar enough to wing it. 1. Turn off every color on your led fixture but the royal blue. Intensity isn’t super important but you’ll want enough light to get a good shot. At least 45-50 at least. A porthole type viewer for the camera will help tremendously but is not required. 2. In Auto WB mode go ahead and take a pic under that lighting. 3. Next go to menu and select the WB option. Figure 1 4. Select custom. Figure 2 5. Then select custom white balance just below that. Figure 3 6. It may warn you that somethings not quite right, but select the ultra blue pic that you just took and go ahead and hit ok. Figure 4. You have now created a WB preset for that spectrum. Go back to camera mode. 7. Now peek through the lens again, as the blue is stripped away and you are greeted by a collection of coral that you have never seen before. 8. Enjoy a brief moment of “ahh so thats how those…… do it” 9. Now go ahead focus and take a pic. That's it, you are done. Below are some examples of pics taken under neutral colored lights with the camera back in the auto WB mode, and then using the method outlined above. To reiterate, these are two separate pics entirely. One was taken in normal light, and the other was taken using our new custom WB setting that we just learned under Royal Blue LED only. These are 100% unedited jpegs, processed by the camera only. I dumped them into Photos on a Mac, then uploaded to photo bucket. No post processing done at all in any way. Zero. This Becomes this And this Becomes this. Delicious isn't it? This one is sick but watch. This Becomes this! Same acro I swear. And just a couple more This guy, wait for it Turns into this! It's that easy! And I can even boast without lying that it's just an unprocessed pic, with no editing at all! For good measure. So what If I may have to explain that, well, it really only looks like this under so and such lighting, and at the right angle etc. You know you want a frag of this one. Resist!!!!!! And finally, perhaps the grossest of them all. I'll admit that I was even tempted to pass this one off because of how insane it looked. For just one fleeting second or two, I had the feeling that now I have one of those. THIS THING IS ONE OF THOSE!! But alas, while it's a gem with loads of potential, It's a far cry from the multicolor wonder that my cannon created. Lets go backwards, Became this!!! Actually is this. So my good friends if you stuck it out for the whole spiel thank you. I know there was an underlined flavor of just plain "mean" to this whole thing, but remember, the next time you see a pic that just looks so friggen good, that you can’t even believe it, don’t. Because the coral does not look like that.