Cruz Erdmann, a 14-year-old student at Westlake Boys High School, Auckland, won the Natural History Museum's international award for Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019.

As part of our Next Generation issue, we asked Cruz to give us his best tips for underwater photography.

1. Perfect your buoyancy using only your lungs

This is by far the most important skill to me as an underwater photographer. By using your lungs you change your position in the water with precision and accuracy. That will prevent you from crashing into the reef, stirring up debris or scaring off your subject.

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Fine-tuning your buoyancy in the water will also allow you to get much closer to your subject.

2. Get the biggest SD card you can afford and take lots of shots

Pixels are cheap. I often take hundreds of photos each dive - the last thing you want is to run out of space when the perfect moment arrives.

3. If you can't get the shot you want, move on

The ocean, and especially coral reefs, have an incredible array of species and environments within even a few square metres. There's always something else to try to photograph.

4. Observe your subject animal, and become familiar with its behaviours

Understanding your subject beforehand allows you to predict its movements, know which habitat to find them in, and any other challenges or quirks they offer.

5. Always keep the eyes in focus

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Everything else around could be out of focus but if you have the eyes in focus, it will still look good. I have never seen a good animal photo were the eyes are not in focus.


The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition showcasing Cruz's winning image and many more is at Auckland Museum from Friday, February 28-Sunday, May 10 2020.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.