Basics & Principles of Underwater Photography

See the world through ocean eyes.

You may have an advanced, modern camera with great capabilities and you can master the arts and basics of surface photography by following some photography rules, but can you take a successful photo underwater?

In order to take photos underwater, you must master and learn the basics and principles of this art so you would be able to take unique and perfect pictures that impress others.

Many people can take beautiful pictures at home, outside, or on the beach, but they are unable to capture a successful photo during their underwater photography experience because they do not follow the rules of underwater photography or do not know the differences between surface photography and underwater photography.

In this article, we will learn the basics and principles of underwater photography and discuss several important matters to everyone, whether professional or beginners. These rules apply to all types of cameras, whether professional or semi-professional. Let’s start with an important question:

What ruins underwater photography?

The water itself spoils underwater photography because it absorbs colors and contains plankton that affects the purity of the image. That plankton messes with the true colors and also stands out more obviously when using flash.

So how do we avoid this major problem?

How do we prevent water from tampering with our pictures?

The answer to this question is confined to four main headings:

  • Stay in shallow water
  • Get closer and closer to the target.
  • Use lenses
  • Restore the colors


Stay in shallow water:

We all know that water absorbs colors and as the depth increases, the colors disappear. You should know that all beautiful photos on the Internet or the covers of magazines and corporate posters are taken at a shallow depth and the photographer did not exceed 15 meters in depth. The water absorption of colors does not have maximum effect at such depth, and the diving photographer can make good use of the sunlight at these shallow depths.


Get closer to the target, and then closer

We have agreed that water is a major cause of tampering with the photos due to its planktonic content as well as its color absorption. Approaching the target immensely reduces an amount of the causes that spoil the purity of the image and, at the same time, brings us closer to the true natural colors of the target.


Use Lenses:

All cameras are often equipped with nature photography lenses for shooting from reasonable distances. Sometimes in underwater photography, the target is less than 30 cm away from the lens and the photographer needs to highlight the target and the location to show the site and the overall identity of the photos. Therefore, special lenses must be used. Also, there are micro-size targets that require special lenses to capture from a suitable distance without scaring the target away or damaging to the marine environment.

There are two types of lenses that serve underwater photography:

Wide-Angle Lens: Allows you to take a wider picture no matter how close you are to the target.

Macro-Zoom Lens: Macro Zoom lenses, or macros, are used to photograph and zoom in small objects to clearly show the object’s details.


Restore the Colors:

Photographers tend to restore the colors of their underwater photos using one of the following techniques:

  • Filters: This method is easy although it’s not that accurate and not adequately effective to give a fully professional photo.
  • White Balance: The photographer makes the camera identify the white color by focusing it on a white piece of cloth. The camera then uses its intelligence to identify and adjust the rest of the colors automatically. This method is effective and used constantly by professionals.
  • Illumination: Use appropriate tools for the camera, namely flashlight or a torch. The flashlight is always better for photography. Direct the flash at a 45-degree angle and avoid using the built-in flash or otherwise, it would directly reflect on the lens and a larger amount of lighting would be withdrawn because of the excessive exposure of the camera to light.
  • Editing software: No image that has not been subject to editing by image processing programs. However, it should be without exaggeration, so the editing is only for the color level or cropping of the image without tampering with its natural components.

All of the above allows you to take an appropriate photo. Apply and try these tips on your next dive.


Do you aspire to become a professional photographer?

Read on!

In order to be a professional photographer, produce perfect, beautiful photos and get a ranking among professional photos, you need to delve into understanding and integrating with your camera and use all of its features as if it were your eye by which you see things as you would like. Use the camera housing that allows you to use all the features and control every detail of the camera.

What are the features a professional would want to use while taking pictures?

You will definitely want to control the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO sensitivity to complete the right exposure triangle.


What is exposure?

The amount of light projected onto a photographic object during the image capture process. Exposure is measured in lux seconds.

The correct exposure to the object while taking the photo will allow you to increase the lighting without the need to increase the flash power to an extent that scares the target or messes with the colors of the scene. It enables you to determine the level of sharpness and clarity of the photo and you will be able to control the depth of field and isolate what you do not want to appear in the photo. You will also get a pure and clear picture that appears to be taken by a professional.

Use the manual mode control so that you can set the appropriate exposure triangle for each photo.

What is the ideal exposure triangle?

Answer: There is no ideal or general exposure. Each object needs to be given its programming in regards to shutter speed, aperture, and light sensitivity. During shooting, you can set your priorities and come up with a suitable formula and ideal exposure triangle for each photographic object.


Diving is undoubtedly fun. It takes you to a different world you have never seen. Only a few people have been through such a perfect experience underwater.

The camera you take will transfer this experience to your friends and introduce them, through the videos and photos you will take, to the features of marine life, which is fun for both the diver and those who see the photos.

Professional photography, understanding of underwater photography, and the use of appropriate equipment will take you to a completely different level you never felt even while diving.

The professional photos you capture will take you to the world of art and enable you to touch that sensitive spot inside yourself. After you finish the dive, you will hold that photo that you took, use your imagination, and travel with the colors to the same site where you took it to wonder when you will be returning underwater.


General Tips:

  • The best photos are those taken from the bottom up or at a completely horizontal angle at eye level
  • The worst pictures are those captured from a top-down angle (satellite pictures)
  • Choose the right buddy and use them as a model, not just a companion
  • Use bright colors and a light mask on the model
  • Use a quiet model, a floating master if you would
  • Always capture the target from the front. Avoid shooting the target from the back, whether it is a diver or an object
  • The triangulation rule is important. Put the target in a third of the general photo frame. Avoid centering it or taking it out of the photo frame
  • Get the help of your companion to compare the size
  • Use a high shutter speed
  • Hold the camera with both hands

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