Thinking about Trying Underwater Photography?


Instead of being a mere underwater observer, do you want to become a hunter? (No, not the kind that shoots to kill).

Wouldn’t it be awesome to capture some of those amazing sites you see while diving so you can share with others, as well as meander down a memory lane of your most memorable dives? And yes, you could now prove to your obnoxious brother-in-law that you really did see a <insert amazing critter>.

Before we get into underwater photography equipment details, we’re going to talk about some basics.

Underwater Photography – Consider This First

nudibranch---underwater-photographyBe realistic about your diving skills: Before you hop overboard with an expensive piece(s) of photography equipment, you must master your basic diving skills.

Buoyancy control is crucial to successful underwater photography because without it, you may crash into fragile coral, as well as scare away your subjects.

You also need to be able to shoot looking up, therefore you might need to swim “upside down” without losing track of how close you are to the bottom.

Your dive buddy: First, if you’re focused on getting great shots, you’re not going to be a very attentive dive buddy. Depending on your dive buddy’s experience and comfort, this could become a problem. You may be so distracted, you miss the fact that you’re running low on air — or that your buddy is in trouble. Either scenario puts you both into a risky situation.

Second, you may linger in one area for several minutes trying to get that perfect shot, while your dive buddy gets bored and wants to move on. You may end up separated. While this doesn’t mean you need a new dive buddy, you just need to discuss concerns ahead of time.

Now Let’s Talk about Underwater Photography Basics

Before you go buy a camera, it’s a good idea to learn some of the terminology and basic features.

Some common concepts:

  • DSLR vs. point & shoot cameras: Point & shoot cameras are exactly that — you don’t need a lot of skills or have to know how to make manual adjustments. This is a great way to get into underwater photography as they are less expensive and require fewer accessories.If you’re serious about underwater photography, then you will want a DSLR camera with options to add lenses, strobes, etc.
  • Underwater housing / casing: This is the case that protects your camera, essentially making it 100% waterproof. Some cameras don’t need them, but most of the higher end ones will. If you already own a digital camera you use on land, check to see if you can purchase a housing for it.
  • Strobe or flash: These provide full spectrum light, either built-into the camera or as an accessory piece — and are essential for underwater photography since ambient light (natural light from the sun) is rarely bright enough.
  • Lens – macro and wide-angle: These are additional lenses you can add to DSLR cameras. Macro lenses are used on tiny subjects, think seahorse or nudibranch. Wide-angle are used on large subjects, think wrecks, reefs or whale sharks.
  • Video: Many cameras can also shoot high-definition video, eliminating the need for a separate video camera. However, just like most other things, if you’re serious about video, you’ll need to invest in the higher-end, more expensive video equipment.

So What Kind of Camera Should I Buy?

It depends.

First, you have to consider if you just want to take some great underwater stills and video without investing a lot of money and time into learning how to use complicated equipment. Point & shoot cameras may be your best bet since they are less expensive, simpler, smaller and lighter weight. Look for a package that includes housing, such as this Nikon Coolpix L30 or this waterproof Sealife DCI1400 that requires no separate housing.

If you’re interested in video but don’t have the time or budget for a full feature video camera, check out this GoPro HERO4, available here as a package that includes lights, mounts, arms and filters.

If you have the budget and the time, you may want to consider a DSLR camera. They offer interchangeable lenses, better sensors, more accessories and generally take higher quality photos and videos. The tradeoffs are higher cost, more complex to use, bulkier and heavier.

Consider taking an underwater photography course!

The best and fastest way to get underwater photography basics down is by taking a course. Sometimes these are offered as a stand-alone seminar or as part of earning an Advanced Open Water certification.

If you live in the Dallas area, Scuba Toys offers underwater photography instruction. Call us at 972-820-7667 or visit us online. We also carry a large line of underwater photography equipment and can help you find the right camera setup for you.

Do you take underwater photos and videos? Let us know your underwater photography tips in the comments section below!

Image attributions:

Whale shark:


Article Name
Thinking about Trying Underwater Photography?
Documenting the amazing things while scuba diving in photos and videos just adds to the fun and excitement of diving. We explore some of the basics of underwater photography.

6 responses to “Thinking about Trying Underwater Photography?”

  1. Trent Richardson says:

    My wife was sort of a reluctant scuba diver (I’m experienced in diving & photography) so I got her a Sealife camera so she’d have something to do while I was shooting and now she’s hooked. She tries to outsmart me now and get to the good shots first. I don’t really care, I’m just happy we can dive and shoot together.

  2. Amy S. says:

    This post was perfect timing – I’m buying my son a dive camera for his birthday and I think I’ll get him the GoPro Hero 4. Thanks!

  3. Matt Lozano says:

    Make sure the subject’s eyes are in focus and looking at you. Also, practice close up shots on land of things like flowers and even your dog’s, girlfriend’s, or someone’s nose before you start shooting underwater.

  4. Kelly Bivens says:

    Look for a camera with a large LCD screen so you can see right away how your shots look. My first camera’s was small and it was hard to see how my shots looked.

  5. Sammi Mazur says:

    Taking photos is one of the best parts of diving. Unfortunately, I haven’t been the best at it, but will be taking a course on underwater photography. I love looking back on all of the beauty and reminiscing on my dive trips.

  6. Cal says:

    A buddy of mine has the GoPro HERO4 and it takes some pretty great videos.

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