Effective Techniques for Stunning Underwater Photography
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Choose the right equipment
  2. Understand the lighting underwater
  3. Capture unique underwater species
  4. Use wide-angle lenses
  5. Practice buoyancy control
  6. Get close to your subject
  7. Experiment with shutter speeds and apertures
  8. Consider the time of day
  9. Use RAW format for flexibility in post-processing
  10. Always put safety first

Dive into the world of underwater photography and discover a completely new perspective. The vibrant colors, unique species, and the quiet serenity under the sea create a magical setting for photography. But, it's not as simple as just diving in and clicking away. You need to arm yourself with some effective techniques for underwater photography to get those stunning shots. Let's get started!

Choose the right equipment

First things first: you need the right gear. And no, we're not just talking about a waterproof camera. There's a whole range of equipment that can take your underwater photography from good to great. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Underwater Camera Housing: This kit encloses and protects your camera underwater. It's like a high-tech suit of armor for your camera. There are various options available, from Ikelite to Nauticam, depending on your camera model and budget.
  • Strobe: Underwater, the natural light can be tricky. To control lighting and capture vibrant colors, a strobe is your best friend. Brands like Sea & Sea and Inon offer high-quality strobes that can make a significant difference in your images.
  • Dive Light: For those darker depths, a dive light can help illuminate your subject. Remember to choose one that's bright enough but doesn't scare away the sea life!
  • Color Filters: Underwater, colors can look different due to the water's filtering effect on sunlight. Red and magenta filters can help bring back the color balance in your photos.

One of the key techniques for underwater photography is to know your equipment well. Spend time learning about each piece's functionality. Practice using them in different situations. Remember, the more comfortable you are with your equipment, the better your photos will be. You wouldn't want to be fumbling with buttons when a school of bright clownfish swims by!

In the world of underwater photography, your gear is your lifeline. So, invest wisely, take good care of it, and it will help you capture those breathtaking underwater moments.

Understand the lighting underwater

Next up on our list of techniques for underwater photography is understanding underwater lighting. Light behaves differently underwater than it does on land. You'll notice that as you dive deeper, colors start to fade. The water absorbs different colors of light at different rates, which is why reds and oranges disappear first, followed by yellows, greens, and finally blues. This is called "color absorption."

So, how do you combat this? You use artificial light sources. A good quality underwater flash or strobe can reintroduce those lost colors. But remember, positioning is key. Try different angles to find what works best for your subject.

Another interesting fact about underwater lighting: water is nearly 800 times denser than air. This means light doesn't travel as far. It also scatters quickly, resulting in what we call "backscatter." It's those small, floaty particles that appear in your photos when you use a flash. To minimize backscatter, position your flash or strobe away from your lens and angle it towards your subject.

Understanding the light underwater is a bit like learning a new language. It's tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. It's one of those techniques for underwater photography that can dramatically improve the quality of your images. Happy lighting!

Capture unique underwater species

Let's talk about capturing unique underwater species, a thrilling part of underwater photography. Underwater, you're not just a photographer, you're an explorer documenting some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet.

So, how do you catch these critters in action? Patience is the name of the game. Animals can sense your movements and intentions. If you're in a rush, they'll feel threatened and swim away. Be calm, move slowly, and give them space. Trust me, it's worth the wait.

Another technique for underwater photography is to research the species you're hoping to photograph. Know their habits, their habitats, and most importantly, their behaviors. Are they more active during certain times of the day? Do they have any unique characteristics that you should look out for? Knowledge is power in the underwater world.

And don't forget, every creature has the potential to make a great subject. Yes, sharks and dolphins are exciting, but have you seen the colors on a nudibranch, or the intricate patterns on a sea fan? Look beyond the big creatures and you'll discover a whole micro-universe waiting to be captured.

So there you have it! That's how you capture unique underwater species. Remember, patience and knowledge are your friends. Happy exploring!

Use wide-angle lenses

Another technique for underwater photography to consider is the use of wide-angle lenses. Now, you may say, "Why wide-angle? I want to capture the fish, not the whole ocean!" I hear you, but hear me out on this.

Wide-angle lenses are fantastic for capturing large subjects, like a coral reef or a shipwreck, and they can create a sense of depth and scale that's hard to achieve with other lenses. It's like inviting your viewer to step into the frame and take a look around. They also allow more light in, which is a big plus when you're shooting underwater.

But here's the really cool part: wide-angle lenses also allow you to get closer to your subject without losing it in the frame. This means less water between you and your subject, which can result in clearer, more vibrant photos. Less water equals less distortion and fewer particles to cloud your shot. It's a win-win situation!

So next time you dive, instead of reaching for your macro lens, consider taking a wide-angle lens for a spin. You might be surprised at the breathtaking images you can capture. Remember, the best techniques for underwater photography often involve trying something new!

Practice buoyancy control

Ah, buoyancy control. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of techniques for underwater photography, but trust me, it's a game changer. Here's why.

When you're underwater, the slightest movement can send you bobbing in the wrong direction. If you're trying to capture that perfect shot of a clownfish dancing through an anemone, the last thing you want is to be drifting off course. That's where buoyancy control comes in.

Good buoyancy control helps you stay steady in the water, which is essential for sharp, focused photos. It also allows you to maneuver closer to your subject without disturbing the environment, which is a big plus if you don't want to scare off that shy seahorse or damage the delicate coral.

But how do you improve your buoyancy control? It's all about practice. Spend time in the water, getting comfortable with your equipment and learning how to control your breath. Scuba diving courses can provide valuable training too. Remember, being a good photographer isn't just about knowing how to use your camera—it's also about being a skilled diver.

So don't overlook the importance of buoyancy control. It's one of those techniques for underwater photography that can truly take your photos from good to great.

Get close to your subject

Alright, let's dive into another key technique for underwater photography: getting close to your subject. Now, I'm not suggesting you play a game of chicken with a great white shark, but in general, the closer you are to your subject, the better your photo will be. And here's why.

Underwater, water particles can scatter light, making your photos look hazy or washed out. By getting closer to your subject, you reduce the amount of water between your camera and your subject, which can greatly improve the clarity and colors of your photo.

But remember, getting close doesn't mean disturbing the marine life or damaging the environment. Always approach your subjects slowly and cautiously. Be patient, take your time to observe their behavior, and wait for the perfect moment to snap your photo.

Additionally, using lenses with shorter focal lengths can help you get closer to your subjects without physically moving in too much. Wide-angle lenses, for instance, are great for this purpose—they let you capture close-up shots while also including the surrounding environment.

So next time you're underwater with your camera, don't shy away from getting up close and personal. It's one of the easiest and most effective techniques for underwater photography to master!

Experiment with shutter speeds and apertures

Let's now talk about another technique for underwater photography that might sound a little technical but trust me, it's not as complex as it sounds. Shutter speed and aperture — two words that can transform your underwater photos from good to great!

Shutter speed is how long your camera's shutter stays open. It can dramatically affect the clarity and exposure of your photos. Faster shutter speeds freeze the action, which is perfect for capturing fast-moving underwater species. Slower shutter speeds create a sense of motion, giving a dreamy effect to your images.

Aperture, on the other hand, is the opening in your camera lens. A larger aperture (smaller f-number) lets in more light and creates a shallow depth of field — perfect for focusing on a single subject and blurring the background. A smaller aperture (higher f-number) lets in less light but gives a sharper focus across the whole image — great for capturing wide-angle landscape shots.

So how does this apply to underwater photography? Well, by experimenting with different shutter speeds and apertures, you can create a variety of effects and moods in your photos. You might use a fast shutter speed and large aperture to capture a razor-sharp image of a darting fish, or a slow shutter speed and small aperture to capture a serene, dreamlike image of a coral reef.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules here. Experiment, play around, and see what works best for you. It's all part of the fun and creativity of underwater photography!

Consider the time of day

Let's dive into another technique for underwater photography, and that's considering the time of day. This might sound simple, but it can have a significant impact on your underwater photos. Why is that, you ask? Well, it's all about the light.

Underwater photography relies heavily on natural light, and the quality of that light changes throughout the day. In the early morning, light rays can create a calm, serene atmosphere. Midday light, on the other hand, is brighter and more direct, offering great visibility. Late afternoon light can cast long shadows, creating dramatic and moody images.

But what about night time? Well, night diving opens up a whole new world of underwater photography opportunities! With the right equipment and safety precautions, you can capture incredible shots of nocturnal marine life and bioluminescent organisms.

So, when planning your next underwater photography session, don't just think about what you want to shoot, but also when. By considering the time of day, you can use light to your advantage and add an extra layer of depth and emotion to your images. This is what sets apart a great underwater photographer from the rest of the pack.

Use RAW format for flexibility in post-processing

Now, let's dip our toes into another significant technique for underwater photography: using RAW format. You might wonder, why should I bother with RAW when JPEG is so much easier? Well, my friend, let me tell you why.

RAW format is like a digital negative, capturing all the data from your camera sensor without any compression or loss of quality. This means you have much more information to work with when it comes to editing your photos. And trust me, in underwater photography, editing is not just a nice-to-have, but an absolute must.

Working with RAW files gives you greater control over aspects like white balance, exposure, and color. Remember, underwater, colors behave differently due to how water absorbs light. The deeper you go, the more colors get absorbed, starting with red, then orange, yellow, and so on. Your photos can end up looking very blue or green. But with RAW, you can bring back those lost colors during post-processing.

Moreover, RAW files allow for non-destructive editing. This means, no matter how much you tweak and adjust, you can always revert to the original image. So, go ahead, experiment and fine-tune to your heart's content!

Yes, RAW files take up more space on your memory card, but with the flexibility and quality they offer, it's a small price to pay. So next time you gear up for an underwater shoot, remember to set your camera to RAW format. It's one of those techniques for underwater photography that can truly elevate your work from good to outstanding.

Always put safety first

We've been diving deep into the techniques for underwater photography, haven't we? But there's one technique that rules them all, and that's safety. Seriously, putting safety first is not just important—it's paramount. Let's see why.

Underwater photography is a sport that combines two challenging activities: diving and photography. Both require concentration and skill, and adding a layer of complexity to either could potentially lead to dangerous situations. So, besides focusing on getting that perfect shot, you must also keep an eye on your surroundings and your equipment.

Always check your diving gear before entering the water, and make sure you're comfortable with your camera equipment. A malfunctioning flash or a fogging lens can be distracting, and distractions underwater can be risky. Familiarize yourself with your gear on dry land first, so you can operate it almost instinctively underwater.

Also, never push your limits when it comes to depth and time underwater. No photograph is worth risking your safety. And remember, the underwater world is a living ecosystem. Respect it. Don't disturb the marine life, and never damage the coral reefs for the sake of a photo.

In a nutshell, safety should always be your top priority. Being cautious and responsible not only protects you and the ocean but also allows you to relax and focus on the art of underwater photography. And that, my friend, is how you get those stunning shots.

If you're fascinated by underwater photography and want to learn more effective techniques, check out the workshop 'Augmented Photography' by Albertomaria. This workshop will not only enhance your understanding of stunning underwater photography but also introduce you to the world of augmented photography, taking your skills to the next level.