A Beginner’s Guide to Underwater Photography

There are so many amazing things to see underwater, and while a diving experience can be wonderful, memories unfortunately fade with time. Capturing photos can help you to relive these memories, and allow you to share the experience with your non-diving friends. But taking beautiful underwater photographs is an art; not only do you have to know how to work a camera, you also have to concentrate on your scuba diving skills. This can take some time to master. We are going to help you get there with our beginner’s guide to underwater photography which includes everything you need to think about when capturing images underwater.

Start your underwater photography adventures today with SSI Photo & Video course!

Underwater photography equipment

We are going to run through the equipment you will need for underwater photography. Of course, you will need a camera, but there are a few extra pieces of kit you might need, too.

  • Camera:Let us start with the obvious. There are many cameras to choose from, depending on how much money you want to spend. A simple, waterproof, low-cost camera would be enough to start you off, as many can go down to around 65ft (20m) deep and they are easy to carry. When you are comfortable with a compact camera, you could upgrade to a DSLR camera, which delivers higher resolution and adjust settings that give you more control.
  • Underwater housing:If you have a DSLR camera, underwater housing is essential to protect it from getting wet. Many camera housing options allow you to take your camera extremely deep.
  • External strobe/flash: A flash or strobe will minimize backscatter in your underwater photographs. You will need to position the flash away from the underwater camera.
  • Lenses:Different lenses can be used to achieve different shots. For example a macro lens is used to capture detail on closeup subjects, and a dome port lens gives a fish-eye effect. Make sure to check that your lenses fit your housing before you buy.
  • Color correcting filters:Filters can be used to counteract the color that is lost as you go deeper underwater. Red colors look brown as you get deeper underwater, and blues and greens can look too vibrant. The filter can make the colors look more like they would on the surface.
  • Memory card: Choose a large memory card so you do not run out of space when you are taking photographs.

Skills needed for underwater photography

There is a lot of skill needed when capturing beautiful photos while scuba diving. You might be surprised at how much there is to think about.

Here are some skills you will need to perfect:

  • Buoyancy:One important skill that can easily be forgotten about by amateur underwater photographers is buoyancy. Having good buoyancy makes life easier for you when taking photos, and it protects marine life. If you kick up sand because you have bad buoyancy, you will have a foggy, unclear photograph. Kicking and sculling can also damage marine habitats. It is important to be confident with your buoyancy as a scuba diver before you attempt to take a camera along with you.

If you would like to perfect your buoyancy, check out the SSI Perfect Buoyancy program, and read our blog on How to do a Proper Buoyancy Check.

  • Know your camera:Be sure to know your camera well before you take it underwater. Trying to figure out how to use the camera while also having to check your air, equalize your ears, focus on buoyancy, keep an eye on your buddy, and practice other dive skills would be quite difficult. Always prioritize dive safety before your photography.
  • Finning techniques:As an underwater photographer you could benefit from learning new ways to fin. You can find tutorials on Youtube that go through various techniques for different situations, or ask an instructor or an experienced underwater photographer to show you next time you go diving. Learning to fin backwards without having to turn your whole body around is a valuable skill when taking photos underwater as you will be able to get up close to your subject and then back away easily.
  • Be safe and polite: Do not chase or touch marine life, if an animal does not want to be photographed, leave them be and avoid making them angry. Avoid using your flash directly into the eyes of living beings. Do not hold onto corals or rocks while taking photos as this could damage habitats and it could cause you harm as well. Finally, be aware of other divers and avoid barging in front of them or kicking them with your fins when trying to take a photo

Do you want not only to take beautiful photos of sharks, but learn more about them? 7 Interesting Species of Sharks: How They Differ and Where to See Them (divessi.com)

Extra top tips

Once you can confidently scuba dive and work your camera, you can move on to perfect your photography skills with these top tips:

  • Research marine life:People love to see pictures of rare and unusual fish. If you learn about which marine life to look out for, you will be ready if one crosses your path. You can even plan your dive trips to places where you might find something particularly special to try to photograph it.
  • Get inspired:Watch ocean documentaries and movies made by talented filmmakers and scroll instagram to see shots from other underwater photographers. This will inspire you and you might get a few tips along the way.

Check out these 19 Underwater Instagram Accounts to Follow in 2022 to get you started.

  • Learn to edit your photographs:Editing skills can turn a good photo into a great photo. Treat yourself to some good editing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop.
  • Make sure your subject is in focus:This seems basic but nothing is more disappointing than thinking you got the perfect shot, and later finding out it is slightly out of focus.
  • Think about angles and lighting:Shooting low at an upwards angle often makes for a nice photograph, and think about how to use the light available to capture different effects with light and shadows.
  • White balance tips:When using a flash/strobe it is best to choose auto white-balance, however when you are not using a flash go for custom white balance or underwater mode for the best results.
  • Aperture priority mode:Many cameras allow you to control the balance between the natural light and the light from the flash/strobe.
  • Think about depth: If you are shooting with light from the sun, it is best to try to stay shallow to take photos as you will lose light the deeper you go. If you are using a flash you can go a bit deeper and still get nice results

Learn how to capture your amazing underwater experiences with SSI Photo & Video course!