Underwater Photography Tips

Experimenting with underwater photography can be an exciting prospect, but one can often feel overwhelmed by the amount of necessary knowledge. This article intends to help you choose the best kind of camera and equipment required for capturing the most vivid images beneath the waves.

Read on to find some useful underwater photography tips on how to get started.

photo of underwater dolphin

What Is Underwater Photography?

If you want to learn the basics of underwater photography, our guide is the perfect place for you. This introductory section will help you find your way around the breathtaking hobby of taking underwater images. Below you will find the most important theoretical things you need to know.

Underwater photography deals with taking photographs while submerged in a lake, the sea, or the ocean. It usually occurs during scuba diving trips, but the photographer can also capture the underwater landscape by simply swimming or snorkeling. Underwater images can also be taken in pools or water tanks.


9 Underwater Photography Tips

Underwater photography is a fun new way to take pictures while snorkeling. Imagine capturing photos of exotic marine life or glistening coral reefs. Thanks to new and improved digital cameras, we have the means to do so. In this article, we will go over our top nine underwater photography tips and how you can perfect your own. So what are you waiting for, let’s dive right in!

1. First, Focus On Diving And Swimming

The first of our underwater photography tips involves boosting up your swimming and diving knowledge. Once you’ve learned how to dive and swim with ease, you can take more proficient photographs. Plus, amateur swimmers pose a threat to underwater environments such as aquatic animals or reefs. Even the smallest accident can turn into a threat for underwater creatures. However, once you’ve mastered it, you’ll enjoy the fun and thrills that come with underwater photography.

Now that you’ve got swimming down, you have to know how to dive. One of the easiest ways to do this is to visit a local diving shop, buy some gear, and take some classes. This usually costs around three hundred dollars, but you can always order online for cheaper costs. However, you should plan to spend a week learning how to dive at your local shop.

2. Try To Get As Close To Your Subject As You Can

This is another of the best underwater photography tips. Underwater photography can be tricky since light has to travel from the same to your target, and back again. This may seem like a pain to take pictures, but you can opt-in for a wide-angle lens for easier use. However, this is also why getting as close to your target is important. But, keep in mind that there are some underwater creatures that you should avoid getting too friendly with, such as sharks. If you feel it may be unsafe to shoot your target too close up, don’t risk it!

3. Test Out Your Camera’s Underwater Mode

This is one of the easiest underwater photo tips to enact. Use the camera’s features to your benefit. Sound waves act differently underwater than they do above water. The deeper your dive, the less light reflects. The first color to go is red, then orange, and finally, yellow. Without the use of a camera with a flash, your targets will only look blue or green. Plus, the addition of a flashlight also helps your target come out better in your photos. However, some cameras even have an underwater mode to help filter out the blue in your photos and make your target look better.

4. Ensure You Have Enough Light

Our underwater photography tips continue with proper lighting. When deciding when to shoot, you should consider sunny days when the sun can better reflect on the water. However, if you have to shoot on a day that is cloudy, you should use flash or your own flashlight to help regulate your target’s colors.

5. Don’t Shoot Down, Shoot Up or Across

When shooting underwater, you should aim above or across your subject for improved backlighting. With the help of the sunbeams shooting from the surface of the water, you can better photograph your target. Paying attention to the angle that you are taking your photo is one of the most vital underwater photography tips.

6. Composition Is Key

Remember how to make good compositions. As difficult as this may be underwater, it’s important to keep it in mind to take more professional photos. Keep in mind that your target is in the middle, with the horizon at the top or bottom third of the frame. With these underwater photography tips fresh in your head, you can always improve on your underwater photographs and become an even better photographer.

7. Don’t Forget About Exposure

Just like any other type of photography, getting the right kind of exposure is important to get the right photo underwater. However, this can be difficult since you will need to add artificial lighting. The best way to create better exposure is to add in ISO, increase the shutter speed, add strobes, or create an independent aperture. This being said, it’s vital that you know your camera’s modes and settings like the back of your hand. When underwater, it can be easy to forget about your photography basics. That is why this is one of the best underwater photography tips.

8. Be Patient

This is one of the most crucial underwater photography tips. With all photography, patience is a necessity. However, with underwater photography, you need even more patience. Taking photos underwater is a lot more difficult than shooting on land, especially when you are just beginning. Get ready to take a lot of photos to get just a few good ones. Try experimenting with a few different settings and using different lighting. By getting out there and taking lots and lots of photos, you will begin improving in no time at all.

9. Practice Makes Perfect

The best way to learn how to take better underwater photos is by jumping in the water and trying it out. Of course, it’s good to read underwater photography tips, learn new things, and prepare. However, the only way you can improve is through practice. Start small by taking pictures in a pool and work up to those underwater ocean coral reefs.


Underwater photoshoots can be incredibly difficult, with the help of these underwater photography tips, you should be able to take more professional pictures. Just remember, practice makes perfect, these tips for underwater photography won’t make you a pro in seconds. Keep in mind that swimming is key to a better underwater picture and getting a better grasp of your camera to get the best tones in your photos. But, most importantly, have fun!

Starting Points for Underwater Photography

Firstly, you must be aware that underwater photography comes with its own rules – some of which don’t apply when shooting subjects on the ground. Light, for instance, travels differently through water, which means that you will need external artificial lighting to get vivid, colorful photos. Without a strobe or a light, your pictures will be predominantly blue and kind of murky.

Secondly, also keep in mind that water gets in the way of sharp, fully-contrasted images. Therefore, underwater photos require the photographer to get really close to the subject – sometimes even within 1 meter – to capture satisfying raw images.

Backscatter is what happens when you try to shoot an underwater subject in the distance without the appropriate external lighting. The term describes the little particles that will sometimes appear in your photographs; an inexperienced photographer might often mistake them for a dirty or dusty lens.

Thirdly, you might want to get your diving skills under control before you take your camera underwater. Using the equipment can be rather distracting, which can lead to random resurfacing or even clashing with the corals.


Necessary Underwater Photography Equipment

Now that we have reviewed the most basic facts about underwater photography, let’s move on to the required gear. Even though we’re only going to scratch the surface of the subject at the moment, you can always check out this article about the best underwater cameras for a more extensive talk about what you will need.

If you’re looking for something not too expensive, the Canon Powershot D30 should catch your interest. Waterproof up to 82 feet in depth, this model is one of the best for amateurs and professionals alike.

At the same time, the GoPro Hero Session could be a great option for beginners. It takes amazing underwater videos and it makes it easier for first-timers to get the hang of UW photography.

Must-have Accessories for UW Photography

But equally important when it comes to underwater sessions is the protective equipment you buy for your camera. As soon as you buy your camera and lens, you need to start looking for underwater housing.

Since saltwater is the most abusive to sensitive photography gear, it is vital that you buy the appropriate housing for your camera. Housing is a term that refers to the camera protection – usually made of polycarbonate or aluminum – that keeps the water away while also giving you access to the camera’s settings.

Most of the housing manufacturers on the market are good enough, even if you don’t buy the priciest there is. However, some of the best that you might be interested in are Ikelite, Patima, and Sea & Sea. With prices ranging from expensive to affordable, these three companies are often mentioned and used by professional diving photographers.

Example of camera housing; in the image is an Ikelite Action Housing for Canon PowerShot ELPH 180, IXUS 175

Keep in mind that the best housings are the ones made for specific camera models. Also important is the fact that you should know that the accessories required for underwater photography can get pretty expensive – almost as expensive as the camera itself.

After you have bought a camera and housing, it’s time to do some research on external lighting. As we said before, the internal flash of the camera is rarely enough for clear, crisp underwater pictures, so you need the help of a strobe (or two) to get the job done.

Example of strobe light; this one is an Ikelite AF35 Optical Slave TTL Strobe

For more information on strobes and other types of lighting that you might need, you can check the Ikelite website (they also present user reviews of the equipment).

Types of Underwater Photography

Now that we have the basics under our belt, it’s time to see what kind of underwater photography captures your interest. Believe it or not, underwater wildlife photography is by far the only one when it comes to capturing subaquatic shots.

Keep in mind that we’re barely dipping our toes into the many possibilities of underwater photography and that nothing can stop you from trying something new and never-done-before.

Underwater Wildlife Photography

Capturing the ocean’s wildlife is possibly the kind of UW photography that first comes to mind – perhaps because it makes the most sense to photograph something that’s already in the ocean.

According to Raul Touzon, a documentary photographer and a frequent contributor to the National Geographic magazine, “The ability to swim well—and in some instances fast, to catch up with the subject—is a must-have skill.”

Touzon also recommends scuba diving over snorkeling because it gives you more time to get closer to your wildlife subjects. However, taking photos near the surface can also be very rewarding, because whales and sharks are more easily found there.


Underwater Wedding Photography

Having said that, it’s time to move to more unusual types of UW photography. Wedding underwater photoshoots are not so uncommon, and the photographer can have as much fun as the bride and groom.

Luckily, you don’t need to be close to the ocean – a shallow pool will do. It’s fun to recreate typical wedding shots underwater; just ask the bride and groom to show some love. Also, make sure you take the pictures during the day and against the natural daylight entering the pool.

Underwater Fashion Photography

This type of UW photography allows the photographer to experiment with the ways fabric sways in this environment. It’s not complicated to match fashion with UW photography; you just need to find the right approach.

Soft fabrics and uncomplicated outfits are some of the things you should look into for the first shots. When it comes to the model, beauty, and good looks are not enough. Needless to say, your subject needs to feel comfortable posing underwater, so keep that factor in mind.

However, the key point of a successful underwater shoot is dealing with communication – or rather, the lack of it. Talking with your model is evidently impossible, and hand signals won’t do much good either. A proper planning session with your team is preferred rather than just diving in and winging it.

Obviously, there are more types of UW photography, focusing on animals, surf, maternity shoots, and even baby photo sessions. Underwater dog photography, for example, is pretty popular. The ocean – and your imagination – is the limit.

Online Courses/Tutorials for Underwater Photography

As I said before, this article does not claim to be extensive in any respect. Plenty of tutorials and online courses can help you become familiar with the subject of underwater photography.

For those who are more apt for visual learning, check the YouTube tutorial embed below to help you get going.

However, one of the most extensive resources online on the matter of UW photography is www.uwphotographyguide.com. This website can guide you through what could be a very technical and unapproachable subject.

Another useful provider is Dive Photo Guide. The info they provide is not only for beginners, so check their website even if you’re just looking to fine-tune your underwater photography skills.

To sum up, we hope these tips on getting started with underwater photography are helpful to you. The resources featured in the piece can help you do more than scratch the surface, so have a look. Have you tried underwater photography? What are your experiences with this fascinating photography technique?

Image Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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