Flooding your camera

Flooding your camera is the most common thing for underwater photographers worry about. This isn’t surprising as there are so many way in which you can flood a housing, and lets be honest floods are not that uncommon. If you have been diving for a few years no doubt you would have seen a fellow diver flood their camera, or even experience it yourself. 

In this article I will explain the common causes of flooding your camera, how to prevent it and what to do in the event of a flood. 


Common Causes of Flooding your Camera

  • Hair, silica pack or other dirt on the o-ring. – This sounds obvious, but it happens so often. Other dirt can be anything from sand to salt to dust.  
  • O-ring is too wet. – Many people use too much grease. If an o-ring is covered in grease then any dirt floating in the air will stick to it like glue. 
  • O-ring is too dry. – If the o-ring is dry it becomes hard and is difficult to fit in place. This can cause the o-ring to slip out of place and not form a complete seal. 
  • Latches are not shut properly. – Maybe you didn’t press hard enough and the latch didn’t go quite into place. 
  • Housing got knocked between set up and your dive. – Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge for a latch to open. 
  • Entering the water. – Many people will do a giant stride entry to water from a high level boat with their camera in their hands. This can cause the camera to smash into the water and can cause a flood. 
  • Port is not connected properly. – Same as with closing the housing maybe it just didn’t push all the way in. It can also be knocked by a third party after set up. 
  • Briefly opening the housing again after set up. –  You forgot the memory card. You open the housing quickly to put it in but don’t check you o-ring again before closing it. 
  • Setting up in a dark. – Setting up in the dark makes it hard to see if the o-ring is clean, if the housing closed properly, or if there are any other problems. 
  • Setting up on a small rocky boat. – If the boat is rocking you will find it hard to properly clean and close the housing.
  • Rushing the set up. – It is easy to make mistakes and miss things.  


Preventing a Flood

  • Always clean properly. – Use a soft cloth to clean the 0-ring. Use cotton buds to clean the groove in which the o-ring sits. 
  • Use the correct amount of grease. – Depending on the size of your o-ring you will need only a drop about the size of a pin head. Spread this evenly across the o-ring using your fingers. You should probably only do this process once a week. Every time you set up your camera gently touch the o-ring to test the dampness. If it feels too wet, wipe some of the grease off using a soft cloth. If it feels to dry add a little more grease. 
  • Visual Check. – After completing the set up of your housing do a visual check to ensure all the latches are closed properly and there is nothing stuck in the o-ring. 
  • Dunk Test. – Find a body of water such as a bucket, rinse tank or even the sea. Hold your camera just under the surface and look for bubbles coming from the o-rings. 
  • Store correctly. – Once the camera is set up find a safe place to leave it. A safe place is somewhere other people will not knock it or it will not roll around. A good idea is to use a box or bag. 
  • Enter the water correctly. It is always best to have another person pass you the camera after you have entered the water. If this is not possible hold the camera high above your head for a giant stride. For a back roll entry it should be tucked in close to your belly.
  • Take your time. – Always leave enough time to check and double check you have done everything correctly. 


What to do if you encounter a flood

  • Continue safe diving practice – don’t put yourself in danger
  • Hold the lens down – so the water runs past the camera and collects in the lens
  • Get out of the water quickly and safely
  • On the surface lift camera out of water
  • Dry the housing and yourself before opening
  • Wash both camera and housing in fresh water (the inside of the housing as well) – if you leave salt inside the housing it will eventually rust or corrode.
  • If camera is not working remove battery and memory card, place in a bowl of uncooked rice over night. – The rice will soak up the liquid and give your camera a chance. – no guarantees this will work.
  • Thoroughly dry the housing and camera before using again – water on the camera could cause it to short circuit. – water inside the housing will cause fogging.
  • Find the cause of the leak – something stuck in the o-ring, housing not closed properly, some kind of manufacturing fault.
  • Repair, clean or replace parts as necessary.
  • Do a test dive


As an underwater photographer there will come a day when you flood your camera. This is inevitable. Simply the question is just when will it happen.

If you would like more information on camera care please download my PDF course on underwater camera care.  


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