Awards + Books

Book Review: Advanced Techniques for the Big Animal Photographer

Book Review: Advanced Techniques for the Big Animal Photographer

By Denise Pietsch

"Underwater photography has exploded in popularity over recent years resulting in a wave of high-quality imagery flooding the industry. As positive as this is for ocean awareness and conservation efforts, it certainly makes things more difficult for budding underwater photographers hoping to get their work noticed... My goal is to bridge the gap between amateur and professional big animal imagery and unveil all of the tips, tricks and techniques that I have used to compile my portfolio." - Josh Blank

Regular readers of the Ikelite Weekly Newsletter will be familiar with Josh Blank, as will his over 65K followers on Instagram. He is known for his up-close-and-personal big animal underwater photos.

Whether it's mako sharks, orcas, humpbacks, or turtles, Josh's images always stand out from the crowd. But how? In his book Advanced Techniques for the Big Animal Photographer Josh shares everything underwater photographers need to know to take their images to the next level.

josh blank ebook content page

Building on the fundamental information from his first eBook, Big Animal Underwater Photography, Josh's new book takes readers beyond the common "get low, get close" rules and digs deeper into the theory of underwater imaging helping photographers to take their skills to the next level.

For readers who missed Josh's first book, or just need a refresher, Advanced Techniques for the Big Animal Photographer starts out with a nice recap of important information like the exposure triangle, equipment recommendations, and the importance of proper lighting in underwater photos. This provides a welcome quick-guide reference before diving into the six specific underwater styles:

• Animal Portraits
• Split-shots
• Sun Burst
• Snell's Window
• Dark/Black Background
• Motion Blur

josh blank ebook example page

Each section contains a quick reference guide at the beginning before breaking down what each style entails, equipment needed, camera settings, composition tips, as well as a plethora of information on clarity, points of focus, water condition insights, and much more.

The quick reference guides are one of my favorite features of this book. They contain suggested camera setting starting points, a bulleted list of equipment, and a few brief tips. These not only provide a frame for what each chapter will touch on but they can also be good reference points for future dive trips. You might not need to re-read an entire chapter before diving into your next trip but they'll be a good refresher to have on-hand before a day of diving. 

One thing I loved about Josh's first eBook was the detailed explanations of technical information explained in succinct and easy-to-understand language, and Advanced Techniques for the Big Animal Photographer is no different. There are also plenty of helpful infographics for those more attuned to visual learning. 

Often times in teaching a technique it's easy to explain the "what" that needs to be done, but also explaining the "how" and "why" lends itself to more thorough comprehension. It's the difference between practicing the steps of a technique and fully understanding how each component step interacts with and informs the others, and Josh explains all of this with expert precision.  

Another reason to love this book? The eBook format of Advanced Techniques for the Big Animal Photographer is perfect for underwater photographers. What better reference guide than one on your phone? Read it on the plane ride to your next dive trip, or on the boat during surface intervals. It's like having a professional underwater photography coach right at your fingertips. 

As usual, I'm walking away from reading something written by Josh with new knowledge, a deeper understanding of technique, and an invigorated desire to get underwater and behind the camera as soon as possible!

Josh's eBook is available on his website - use the discount code ADVANCED at checkout on to receive 15% off.


Josh Blank

Josh Blank is a diver, underwater photographer, and author based out of the Gold Coast on the east coast of Australia. Through a combination of scuba diving and freediving, Josh is passionate about exploring the open ocean and photographing the larger marine species that inhabit the deep blue. With his photography he hopes to inspire, inform, and instill an interest in the underwater world. He recently published an eBook Big Animal Underwater Photographand has a new underwater photography eBook available soon.  Read more...


denise headshot

Denise Pietsch (pronounced “Peach”) currently manages Ikelite’s Photo School and social media presence. Denise hails from New Jersey, where she obtained a degree in Dance Therapy. After years teaching dance she migrated into the corporate world and eventually came around to Ikelite via the natural career path of fruit distribution and early childhood development. In the end, her lifelong love of photography and octopuses combined into the work she does now. In addition to sharing her energy and enthusiasm with the underwater community she also manages social media for her dog, Joe, collects vinyl records, and enjoys creating memories with her friends and family.


Additional Reading

Book Review: Big Animal Underwater Photography

Up Close and Personal: A Guide to Underwater Animal Portraits

An Insider's Guide to Diving the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Sea Turtle Portraits with DS230 Strobes

5 Books for Underwater Photographers

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