It’s important to understand one thing about underwater photography: A great camera is not always going to create great images.
Personally, I love when people see my photos and say, “Oh my gosh, your camera is so good!” I never fail to respond with a curt, “thanks. I taught it everything I know”.
While you definitely need a camera, there are so many other factors that go into creating great underwater images! When you have a good grasp on these 10 things, you’d be surprised what sort of images you can get even with small compact cameras!
If you’re looking for information about which cameras are best for underwater photography, see my blog post here.
After more than a decade of teaching scuba diving and underwater photography experience, here are my 10 Essentials for Underwater Photography you need to get great images (that’s aren’t a camera):
Comfortable and control in the water
When you feel comfortable in the water, your shots will be better planned and executed. In-water training and experience is important to being comfortable and also better at swimming with your photo gear. Whether you’re freediving, scuba diving, or snorkeling – the more in-water time you have under your belt, the more comfortable you will be.
The right SCUBA Diving, Freediving or Snorkeling equipment
To capture that perfect moment, you will need to be able to move freely. So make sure that you pay attention to your equipment too.
I recommend keeping the following tips in mind when choosing the right swimming gear:
- Stay warm but also stay flexible
- Black masks will help you see your camera settings underwater and reduce glare
- Correct weighting, if you’re wearing a wetsuit, you’ll want to have a weight belt to compensate the extra flotation. You don’t want to be negatively buoyant! You should always float on the surface and if you want to duck dive below the water, you need to use your fins to kick down.
- Scuba divers might prefer rear inflate BCDs and Side-exhaust regulators.
Timing & Circumstance
Set yourself up for success by paying attention to water and environmental conditions. Plan ahead and choose the appropriate diving locations and time of day for photography.
TIP – when walking in off the shore, an incoming tide is usually better visibility as the tide is bringing in clean water from the deep.
Understanding of the basics of photography
Learn the basic photography principles such as composition, exposure and lighting. Also make sure you understand how they are different in underwater situations. Check out my underwater photography online mini course here.
Local knowledge of the site
Many underwater photographers carry out preliminary dives before taking their camera gear down with them. Having local knowledge of the different underwater sights can give you an idea of the different equipment necessary for each dive.
Knowledge of your camera
Oftentimes, the problem is not your camera. Often times we just need to learn of its capabilities! So dust that operation manual or pull up a YouTube video to learn more about your particular device.
Knowledge of your subjects
Do some research on your underwater subjects. What are you looking for? What does their habitat look like? What is the best angle to shoot from for that subject? These are the questions to ask. I mean, imagine shooting a pod of dolphins with a macro lens! Impossible!
I can not stress this more, lighting is so important, because the deeper you go, the less colour and light will be visible.
Great quality lenses make for great photos! If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you’ll have the choice of lenses. Prime lenses are usually recommended, and you’ll want at least one for Macro and one for Wide-angle. If you have a small compact camera, you don’t have to miss out! You can buy wet lenses for underwater, these attached to the front of your underwater housing.
This is where a lot of the magic happens! Mad post-production skills can really bump up the look of your photos. You can improve everything from a photograph’s vibrancy, brightness, and contrast. Learn to use a popular software such as Adobe Lightroom.
Ready to roll!
Now that you have these 10 things sorted, you’re ready to get shooting.
If you’d like to learn more, sign up for my Underwater Photography Online Mini-Course – you’ll have lifetime access to 10 lessons and all for only $59 AUD.
If you have specific questions, may it be how to use your own gear or on how to improve your editing skills, click here to book a private lesson where I can answer anything underwater photography related.
PS – Don’t forget to sign up to the mailing list and be the first to know about upcoming scuba, freedive and snorkeling events.