3 things I wish I knew when I started Underwater Photography

I started photography over ten years ago and studied for a degree in the subject. But this didn’t prepare me for Underwater Photography. 

Here is an overview of the top three things which I wish I had known when I started underwater photography. These are all things which relate specifically to the underwater world and are very simple to apply. Not much technical knowledge of photography is needed. 


Get Close

Water is denser than air and therefore light travels through it differently than it does through air. Detail and colour is lost very quickly. To get a sharp image you need to get close. 

Another thing to remember is that when wearing a mask everything appears 33% bigger and 25% closer to our eyes. However this does not happen to the camera lens and therefore you need to get even closer than you think is necessary. 

Filling the frame makes for a more interesting composition and can show a lot more detail of your subject. 

Don’t use the zoom for large subjects which are far away. This will just give blurry, soft exposures. Move your body closer to the subject. Zoom can be used for macro subjects but still put the camera as close as you can before you start to use the zoom. 

Leopard shark
old picture of a leopard shark from far away


cat fish
New picture – close up of cat fish


Use Underwater Lights

As I mentioned earlier light travels slower through water than through air. This means that you loose colour. The first colour to be lost is red at about 5 meters followed by orange, yellow, green, and finally blue at 70 meters. So the deeper you dive the less colour you will have in your images and you are likely to have a blue or green colour cast across the whole image. 

The most effective way to correct this colour loss is to use underwater lights. Having a white light close to your subject means that the light does not have to travel so far and therefore you will not loose any colour. 

There are two main types of underwater lights; video and strobes. Read my blog Strobe vs Video Lights.

sea fan
Old picture – sea fan with out lights


giant sea fans
New picture – sea fan with lights


Be Patient

The underwater creatures are quite skittish. Therefore to get a good picture of them you need to be patient. Approach slowly or wait for them to come to you.

Take time to watch and observe the behaviour of the animal you are trying to photography. Often fish have a territory which they swim around to protect usually in the same pattern over and over. 

eagle ray
Old picture – eagle ray swimming away


New picture – barracuda swimming into the camera lens

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