Introduction to Underwater Photography

Underwater Photography is the process of taking photography while under water. It is usually done while scuba diving, but can be done while diving on surface supply, snorkelling, swimming from a submersible or remotely operated underwater vehicle,  or from automated cameras lowered from the surface.

Underwater photography can also be categorised as an art from and a method for recording data.

Successful underwater imaging is usually done with specialized equipment and techniques. However, it offers exciting and rare photographic opportunities. Animals such as fish and marine mammals are common subject, but photographers also pursue shipwrecks, submerged cave system, underwater “landscapes” invertebrates, seaweeds, geological features and portraits of fellow divers.


The primary obstacle faced by underwater photographers is the loss of colour and contrast when submerged to any significant depth. The longer wavelengths of sunlight (such as red or orange) are absorbed quickly by the surrounding water, so even to the naked eye everything appears blue-green in colour. The loss of colour not only increases vertically through the water column, but also horizontally, so subjects further away from the camera will also appear colourless and indistinct. This effect is true even in apparently clear water, such as that found around tropical coral reefs.

Underwater photographers solve this problem by combining two techniques. The first is to get the camera as close to the photographic subject as possible, minimizing the horizontal loss of colour. Wide-angle lenses allow very close focus, or macro lenses, where the subject is often only inches away from the camera. Many serious underwater photographers consider any more than about 3 ft/1m of water between the cameras and subject to be unacceptable. The second technique is the use of flash to restore any colour lost vertically through the water column. Fill flash, used effectively, will ‘paint’ in any missing colour by providing full-spectrum visible light to the overall exposure.

Another environmental effect is range of visibility. The water is seldom optimally clear, and the dissolved and suspended matter can reduce visibility by both absorption and scattering of light.

Underwater Camera

Cameras made for dry work can also work underwater, protected by special housings that are made for various digital point and shoot cameras, digital compact cameras with full exposure controls, and SLRs (single lens reflex cameras). Most such housings are specific to the camera. Materials range from relatively inexpensive plastic to high-priced aluminium cases. Housings allow many options, since the user can choose a housing specific to their everyday “land” camera, as well as utilize any lens in their collection. Underwater photographers generally use either wide-angle lenses or macro lenses, both of which allow close focus, thereby eliminating the need for long underwater distance between camera and subject. Digital media can hold many more shots than standard photographic film (which rarely holds more than 36 frames). This gives digital cameras an advantage, since it is impossible to change photographic film underwater. Other digital versus film photography comparisons apply, and the use of film underwater has declined, as it has on land.

Entry Requirement

It is recommended that before taking an underwater photography course in open water conditions, students should be able to control their buoyancy within 1m or better, and that they should be very familiar with their own diving equipment.


  • Complete standard PADI paperwork and medical statement
  • Read the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer manual
  • Complete 2 knowledge review

What you’ll learn

Ø  How to choose the right underwater camera system for you

Ø  The PADI SEA method for getting great shots quickly

Ø  The three primary principles for good underwater photos

Best underwater Cameras

Canon Powerpoint D20 – Best underwater Camera for Geotagging photos

Olympus TG-1 – Best underwater Camera for creative shooters

Nikon Coolpix AW100 – Best underwater Camera for automated features

Panasonic Lumix FT4 – Best underwater Camera for travellers

Fujifilm FinePix XP170 – Best underwater Camera for budget

What next?

Two excellent specialties to pair with underwater photography are the PADI Enriched Air Diver course, and the PADI Drysuit diver course on your way to PADI Master Scuba Diver The PADI Enriched Air Diver course allows you to extend your time underwater so you have more time to capture images. In cooler climates, a drysuit allows you to dive comfortably longer, and to make more dives

Want to do Underwater Photography?

Oyster Diving does a PADI Underwater Digital Photography course!!

Check out Underwater Photography

Leave a Reply