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Top 10 Underwater Photo Tips

By Editorial Staff

underwater photographyContributed by Info Guru Paul Seaburn

Many years ago I took snorkeling trips to Australia and Mexico.

The underwater photos I shot using a small film camera in a bulky waterproof plastic housing look like I was swimming in lime soda. I could have used some underwater photo tips. Today we have superb waterproof digital cameras and easy-to-use housings for digital SLRs, but there’s more to beautiful underwater photography than just the hardware. Before your next deep sea adventure, check these underwater photo tips.

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10. Practice Scuba or Snorkeling

practice scuba

It’s hard to take good pictures when you’re struggling to breathe, so take some time to practice just plain scuba diving or snorkeling before going down with a camera. Then take a camera down and get used to holding it, aiming it and pressing the buttons. Once you’re comfortable, you’ll take better photos.

9. Practice With Your Camera

practice using camera

If you can, spend some time before your trip in a pool practicing with your underwater camera. Get used to how it feels underwater, learn where the buttons are and what is the most comfortable position for shooting. Check the owner’s manual for what to do if problems occur.

8. Learn Your Camera’s Underwater Settings

camera settings

You may be surprised to find out that water isn’t clear – it contains minerals, plankton and tiny debris that absorb colors. It also diffuses light. To compensate, underwater cameras have a ‘scene’ setting to brighten the colors and get rid of underwater blue tones. Check the owner’s manual for directions, shoot some different pictures underwater, then look at them on your computer to get the feel for how to use it.

7. Learn A Little Photography

photography class

Underwater photography follows the rules of basic photography, so it pays to get a how-to photography book, watch a DVD or even take a photography course in composition if you want to shoot pictures to be proud of. If you’re taking a course, make sure the instructor knows you’re shooting underwater so you can learn any differences.

6. Learn About The Location

learn location

Ask the local dive shop or tour organizer what kind of fish you may have the opportunity to see – you don’t want to waste film on carp and miss a cool ray or barracuda. Also ask about geological features, coral reefs, shipwrecks and other interesting photo opportunities.

5. Choose The Right Camera and Gear

choose gear

There are some great digital underwater cameras that take excellent pictures. Look for one that waterproof to at least 10 meters (33 feet) and has a large LCD viewing screen to help compose your shots. Many of these cameras also have video and audio mode. For photographer-quality photos, you’ll need to spend much more on a digital SLR camera with an underwater housing.

4. Get Closer To Your Subject

get close

Even the most pristine water dulls your light and washes out colors so it’s important to get as close as you safely can to your subject. Use caution with dangerous fish and don’t get too close to disturb sensitive coral or underwater structures that might not be as stable as they look.

3. Flash Is Your Friend


Use your camera’s flash or a strobe to offset the colors from the water and brighten the colors of your subject. If your camera comes with one, use a diffuser to spread the light. Make sure to get close to your subject because the light of the flash doesn’t travel as far underwater.

2. Clean And Dry Your Camera

clean camera

When you’re done for the day, rinse off your camera or its housing with clean fresh water, especially if you were shooting in salt water. Use a clean soft absorbent cloth to dry the body off before opening it to remove the media card. Leave the camera out for a few hours to let anything you missed evaporate before putting it away for your next underwater shoot.

1. Enjoy Yourself

have fun

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Unless you’re a profession photographer working for a travel magazine, you’re probably taking photos to remember your vacation. Don’t let the desire to bring home beautiful photos cause stress to ruin your vacation. You’re going to see some memorable creatures and sights. Relax and enjoy the experience and you’ll do fine.


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