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Underwater photography tips and techniques


Almost like flying
Almost like flying

Almost every photographer is thrilled when taking his or her first pictures under water, whether in a swimming pool or the ocean’s depths. The excitement comes not only from the very idea of capturing an underwater scene on film or on a digital camera's sensor, but also from being in a completely-different environment - another world, it seems.


YOU DO NOT HAVE TO RE-LEARN BASIC PHOTOGRAPHY

The fundamentals of photography remain the same wherever you are taking pictures, but when the medium that light travels through is water - not air - special techniques and equipment are needed in order to capture good images.

Proper exposure and sharp focus are as important underwater as on the surface. Quillback rock fish photo courtesy of Tom Sheldon.
Proper exposure and sharp focus are as important underwater as on the surface. Quillback rock fish photo courtesy of Tom Sheldon.

Many of the images in this section have been provided by expert diver/photographer, Tom Sheldon, seen here with his wife, Paulette.
Many of the images in this section have been provided by expert diver/photographer, Tom Sheldon, seen here with his wife, Paulette.

UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY IN A WORD

If the difficulties encountered in shooting underwater had to be summed up in one word, perhaps the best word would be “limitations.” Communication and travel below the surface are limited. Natural light and visibility are limited. Equipment selection is limited. Even time is limited, since we are air-breathing creatures and must at some point come to the surface.

The secret to successful underwater photography occurs in how well we overcome these limitations. The information, hints and tips provided in this section of photographytips.com will help to guide you in the right direction.


IMPORTANT ADVICE

The most important advice you can receive, however, has little to do with photography per se, and everything to do with your safety. A watery environment can be a dangerous environment, even if it is a back yard pool. No photograph is worth any risk to your life and safety. Depending on the type of underwater photography you wish to pursue, you must first acquire appropriate specialized knowledge and training, and receive certification from qualified instructors. This applies to every aspect of underwater activity, from basic swimming skills to advanced deep-sea diving techniques. You must rigorously train yourself to keep techniques of survival uppermost in your mind when taking underwater pictures, since it is possible to become so engrossed that you may tend to overlook basic safety procedures. Learn and apply all safeguards all the time, and if you have any uncertainty about whether what you are doing or thinking of doing may be risky, then consider it risky and don’t do it.

Proper equipment, good training and safe procedures enable the taking of fascinating underwater pictures. Photo by Tom Sheldon.
Proper equipment, good training and safe procedures enable the taking of fascinating underwater pictures. Photo by Tom Sheldon.

Underwater creatures make excellent subjects for exceptional images. Sea blubber jellyfish photo by Tom Sheldon.
Underwater creatures make excellent subjects for exceptional images. Sea blubber jellyfish photo by Tom Sheldon.

A FASCINATING ENVIRONMENT

The rewards of underwater photography can be great. Since it is a specialized area that relatively few photographers attempt, the opportunities for new and different images are many. People who have little interest in your vacation pictures will usually look forward with eagerness to seeing your underwater pictures, since there is a novelty aspect to them and because we are all fascinated by images from places we seldom see in person.


SEND US YOUR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

We invite you to send us your own tips and pointers for taking pictures underwater, whether in a shallow stream or the ocean floor. Include examples of your images whenever possible, and we will provide you with credit if we use them on the website.

The range & intensity of colors underwater can be striking. Photo by Tom Sheldon.
The range & intensity of colors underwater can be striking. Photo by Tom Sheldon.
Further information...

Becoming a deep-sea photographer

Camera housing

Disposable underwater camera

Film speed

Flash

Landscapes underwater

Lens choice

Light & visibility

Tom Sheldon

The underwater environment
Related topics...

The underwater environment