Ultimate Guide to Underwater Photography

Photography is a vast field and includes a wide range of subjects. While most people are doing photography on the ground and on-air, there is a small chunk of people who are interested in underwater photography as well. It surely is an interesting idea and a hobby that not many would be able to do. However, if you are a fan of underwater photography, this guide is for you!

Things to Consider when Going for Underwater Photography

Equipment for Underwater Diving

  • The air cylinder is the most important thing you need to dive underwater. An aluminum cylinder contains pressurized air divers inhale through a tube. 
  • The regulator comes next. Air from the cylinder flows into the regulator before it is inhaled. This ensures the diver can inhale the air without any extra effort. 
  • A buoyancy control device (BCD) allows you to control the way you float underwater. This will let you stay at your depths of choice without needing to kick your fins. 
  • A scuba diver mask is made of tempered glass or silicone. Both of these are very strong materials, so they can bear the pressure of the water. The mask ensures the diver can see underwater and covers their nose so they don’t accidentally breathe in water. 
  • Fins allow the diver to move swiftly underwater. Exerting less effort will take up less air, and thus you will be able to dive longer.
  • A wetsuit allows the diver to glide smoothly, and weights are used to counter the water’s natural buoyancy. 

Gear up with all the required underwater diving equipment

Practice Under Water Diving

Underwater photography is done while scuba diving, and you need to practice staying in water for long periods. You need to perfect your buoyancy, and ensure you can stay very still underwater. The pressure of the water will be difficult to bear.

Practice physical coordination, so that you can get out of tight spots. Avoiding corals is another important point to focus on. Work on breath control, and try to stay calm at all times.  You can also practice your strokes, finning techniques, and trims.

While practicing, take your camera with you underwater. This will put your camera housing to the test.

Always practice before going for professional underwater photography

Choose the Right Camera

There is an umpteen amount of cameras being released in the market every day. However, these can be broken into three broad categories. Compact cameras, mirrorless cameras, and DSLRs. You can use any of these cameras, however, there are some benefits you get with each choice. For beginners at underwater photography, compact cameras seem like the obvious choice. These cameras are comparatively cheaper, and easier to use. Nonetheless, DSLRs create better quality photos, and most people switch to them as soon as they can afford to. Choosing the right camera is an important thing to consider when going for underwater photography. 

The most obvious advantage of using DSLRs is that they provide you with interchangeable lenses. You can use special lenses that use larger sensors to produce better image quality. Some lenses offer better focus and increase the shutter speed. This is crucial when shooting wildlife underwater, as cameras with faster shutter speed can capture objects moving at high speed. 

While you cannot change lenses in compact cameras, you can use a wet lens to better the image quality to some extent. If you know how to use your compact camera to the best advantage, it can take shots that can rival those taken by a DSLR. On the other hand, GoPros are also great because they are specifically designed for underwater photography. 

A DSLR is a good choice but a GoPro is even better

Buy a Camera Housing

You need to protect your camera from the water before you take it below the sea. To do this, you will have to buy a camera housing. Most large camera manufacturers produce camera housings of their own. There are two types of housings, soft housings, and hard housings. Soft housings have a range of 30 meters underwater. If you want to go deeper than that, you need to buy specialized camera housings, also called hard housings. These are produced by specialized underwater gear manufacturers, but they are expensive, and not easily available.

Hard, specialized housings come with flash diffusers of their own. They also have options for you to attach external probes and underwater lights to the camera. This ensures everything you need is at your fingertips. 

camera housing protects the camera

Choose the Right Camera Settings

Choosing the right camera mode is an important thing to consider when going for underwater photography. Keep your camera set to macro mode whenever shooting underwater. Check the range of your macro mode beforehand, so you know what you are working with. The macro mode in most cameras will have a range of about 1-2 inches. If you get any closer than this, you won’t be able to take a photo at all. If you get farther than the specified range, you will have to switch the macro mode off. 

Always be sure to keep the camera zoomed out. Zooming the camera on a distant object defeats the purpose of the macro mode. If your object is too distant, try getting closer rather than zooming in. 

Right camera settings help in a great photography experience

Choose the Right Flash Settings

Light is available underwater, but only till a few feet in. If you get in deeper than that, the water becomes darker, and it becomes impossible to see anything. You need a flash to take photos in this condition, and the mode of the flash is imperative for taking good photos. 

Until you are within 3-4 feet below sea level, you must set your flash to forced flash. You will also find an option called auto-flash, however, using that will make your photos turn out blue. 

Attach a flash diffuser to the front of the camera to soften the flash of your camera. This will make your photos appear softer, and prevent any harsh glares.

We will discuss the camera and flash settings needed for different distances from the subject, below. 

Settings Required at Different Distances From the Subject

Within 3 feet of the subject

Farther than 3 feet of the subject

Flash settings

Internal flash

Flash off

Or underwater mode

Camera settings

Macro mode

Camera zoomed out

Macro mode

Camera zoomed out

Custom white balance instead of auto white balance

External strobe

Optional

Yes

Take Care of the Distance From the Object

If you are within 3 feet of the object, you must turn your internal flash on. This will allow you to take the best photos. The moment you get farther than 3 feet from the object, switch your internal flash off. If you use the flash from such a distance, the photo will come out blue. There will be a lot of backscatter in the damage unless you are in exceptionally clear waters. Unless your subject is dangerous, try getting within 3 feet of it, and then switch on the flash to take the photo. Another option is to purchase an external strobe, but it will come with a separate price tag not everyone can afford.

If for any reason you can’t get close to an object, you will have to take photos in ambient light without the flash. Ambient light means photos taken in natural light, without the use of any foreign source of added light. You can either use your camera’s underwater mode, with the result depending on the type of our camera. Or you can do a custom white balance to make the photo clear. Make sure you read your camera’s manual beforehand, to become familiar with all these settings. 

When using internal flash, always make sure to set your camera to auto-white balance. Never keep it at cloudy white balance or any other underwater settings, since these will cause your images to come out reddish-orange. 

Invest In an External Strobe

An external strobe is a flash that is not built in the body of the camera. It has to be bought separately and then connected to the camera. These strobes are essential in reducing backscatter and are used when you are more than 3 feet away from the subject. These strobes also allow you to try different lighting options to choose the best one for your photos. Investing in an external strobe is something you could consider when going for underwater photography. 

When choosing an underwater strobe, the bigger power it has, the better. The best batteries are 2700mAH or 2900mAH, which can be recharged. Think of the recycling rate of the strobe next. The best recycling rate is that of 1 second, while 3 seconds is considered too slow. 

Try to find the external probes with the smallest size and the lightest weight. You will find both the underwater and surface weight of the probe mentioned on it. If you are willing to invest in a probe, be sure to get a good one in the market. A bad quality strobe will become a liability very fast. 

Practice Beforehand

You can set up your equipment in a dark room, and try taking shots there. This will show you the effectiveness of your flashes. Over time, you can try shooting in water colored with blue ink. This will allow you to check how the camera works in the blue water of the ocean.

Things to Consider When Going for Underwater Photography

In shallow water

In deep water

Diving equipment

- Snorkeling mask

- Wet suit

- Fins

- Life vest

- Air cylinder

-Wet suit

- Fins

- Mask

- Buoyancy control device 

- Regulator

- Weights

Camera

Compact camera

DSLR, or mirrorless camera

Camera Housing

Soft housing

Hard housing

Camera setting

Macro mode

Camera zoomed out

Macro mode

Auto-white balance

Camera zoomed out

Flash mode

Forced flash

Internal flash

Flash diffuser

Yes

Yes

Essentials of Underwater Photography

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
GoPro HERO8 Black Waterproof Action Camera
GoPro Light Mod by GoPro Official
GoPro Max Grip + Tripod - Official GoPro Mount
Neewer 50-In-1 Action Camera Accessory Kit


1. GoPro HERO8 Black Waterproof Action Camera


Best camera for underwater photography

The foremost thing needed for underwater photography is a camera that is not water-resistant but fully waterproof so that you don't have to worry at all. For this reason, GoPro is always recommended. The company has been creating some of the best cameras, particularly for unique photographic experiences. People install GoPros on their heavy bikes and cars for recording and some even go for underwater photography with it. This camera is waterproof down to 33foot which is quite sufficient for underwater photography.

As far as this camera is concerned, it will help you get some of the top-class pictures when underwater. This is because it has been designed to make the photos and videos in a stable and consistent manner. As a result, neither the photos nor the videos appear as blur or erratic. It helps you record 4K60 + 1080 pixels of video while you have the Hyper smooth video stabilization option. Besides, the camera can help you capture 12 megapixels of photos. 

What's more, is the fact that no matter you go underwater, it records the audio in a clear tone without having any lags or water disturbances. Expert photographers have chosen GoPro Hero 8 because it offers multiple photo options too such as ultra-wide view. This is a must-buy if you want to enjoy underwater photography and videography without any stress of mind. 

Pros 

  • Advanced Wind Noise Reduction

  • Waterproof

  • Compatible with All GoPro Mounts and Accessories

  • Complete Bundle


Cons

  • Only comes with 1 battery

  • Protection plan costs extra



2. GoPro Light Mod by GoPro Official


Best flash for underwater photography

GoPro Light Mod is a flash and that is going to be suitable in dark environments. Just like the camera, this flash is also a waterproof one and can be used up to 10 meters deep in water. Many times, the photographers might want to take pictures of coral reefs, sea creatures, or any dark objects. Since good lighting is an essential part of photography, the GoPro Light would be important for you to take high-quality pictures with exact details. 

As far as the technical aspects are concerned, it has 4 different levels of brightness so that you can adjust the lighting according to the situation. The maximum power generated by the LED inside this flash is 200 Lumens which is quite sufficient for photography.

Besides, this flash comes with a battery that can run for up to a maximum of 6 hours which is more than sufficient. Most people don't go for an underwater photography session for even an hour. Besides, this flash is not only suitable for GoPro Hero 8 camera but will be suitable for any GoPro Camera.  

Pros

  • Premium Quality Flash 

  • Long-lasting choice

  • Light does not fade over time

  • High User Satisfaction Rate


Cons

  • Expensive than all other flashes available in the market

  • Can work with GoPro Camera only



3. GoPro Max Grip + Tripod - Official GoPro Mount


GoPro Max Grip with Tripod for use in underwater photography

Stability stands as one of the biggest concerns in underwater photography. You can't always get conditions like calm waters. For example, if you are going in waters such as the sea, the waves are going to be at high speeds. As a result, even if the camera offers high stability, you won't be able to keep it still for long because of an improper grip plus the issue of waves causing a disturbance and causing you to move away. 

Therefore, a grip is essential. It won't only help in underwater photography but will allow you to shoot some flawless videos as well. This grip is particularly suitable with regards to the camera that we mentioned above because it is a GoPro official accessory compatible with all models of the camera including Hero 8. 

This camera grip is best for taking panoramic photos. Besides, the tripod is also attached to it and can be extended or withdrawn accordingly. The rod is extendable from 9 inches to 22 inches. Although a tripod is not necessary underwater, you would still find it useful for over-the-ground photography.

Pros

  • Works with all GoPro Camera

  • Foldout Legs along with magnetic closure

  • Best Grip for taking stable photos and videos


Cons

  • Tripod is not useful for underwater photography

  • You need to learn to lock your GoPro properly on it



4. Neewer 50-In-1 Action Camera Accessory Kit


Best Accessory Kit for Underwater Photography

Gathering all the accessories for underwater photography individually is going to be a hassle for some people. Therefore, you can simply get this camera accessory kit which comes with 50 pieces that are going to help you in a better underwater photography experience. This accessory kit is quite a versatile one as it is suitable with top brands of action cameras including GoPros, DJI Osmo, AKASO, and many others as well. 

The package contains almost everything that you need for a great underwater photography experience. However, it does not contain flash which you would have to buy separately. Accessories such as chest straps, head straps, pivot arms, buckles, suction cups, handle grip, wrist straps, and many others would allow you to take pictures from multiple angles in any way that suits you the most. 

However, keep in mind that this is not an official GoPro product which is why it is relatively cheaper. Nonetheless, this does not mean that there are flaws in terms of quality and the users have been highly satisfied with it. 

Pros

  • 50 Accessories - Best for Underwater Photography

  • Bundle Costs you less than individual item purchase

  • 42,000+ Satisfied Customers


Cons

  • Not an official product

  • No Flash included



Important Things Required for Underwater Photography

  GoPro HERO8 Black Waterproof Action CameraGoPro Light Mod by GoPro OfficialGoPro Max Grip + Tripod - Official GoPro MountNeewer 50-In-1 Action Camera Accessory Kit
UsageWaterproof Camera required for underwater photographyFlash required for photography in dark placesGrip required for maximum stability of photos and videosComplete kit offering versatile photo experience
Price RangeHighHighHighLow
User ResponseWorks Flawless, Suitable for multiple photography experiencesWorks the best but is a little priceyHighly recommended for making stable videos and VlogsA good accessory kit but should have more items
CompatibilityGoPro GoProGoProMany Brands
 

Conclusion

Underwater photography is an interesting experience for many. Photo enthusiasts always love to explore the wildest ways to go for photography. However, for a great photography experience underwater, you need to get the right accessories as well which would last for a long time. We hope that this guide has helped you make the right decision.