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Underwater housings

An underwater housing can be heavy when compared with a camera, however its weight becomes offset by its buoyancy in water.
An underwater housing can be heavy when compared with a camera, however its weight becomes offset by its buoyancy in water.

Although special, waterproof cameras are commercially available for underwater photography, just about any camera can be used underwater if it is protected inside a water-tight housing.

Some camera manufacturers make protective housings specifically for their own cameras, while specialty firms manufacture housings for a range of different brands.

It goes without saying that the housing must be completely watertight, but it must also be robust, able to withstand the unavoidable bumps and knocks it will receive in use, and also able to withstand water pressure at the maximum depth at which will be used. Metal housings, generally made from cast aluminum, offer the greatest strength and resistance to rough handling, however metal may also be subject to corrosion and is generally the most costly of the housing choices. Plastic (plexiglass or Lucite) housings, which are usually less-expensive, are generally not as durable and usually weigh less, requiring more ballast. The camera and housing together should ideally have a slightly-negative or neutral buoyancy.

Underwater housings can be bulky and heavy compared to a camera on its own, and take some getting-used to. The extra weight and bulk, however, are less noticeable underwater because of their buoyancy. Nonetheless, the weight must still be taken into account. Camera gear will affect your underwater buoyancy. Depending upon the amount of equipment you carry, your weight belt will need to be adjusted accordingly.

The housing must be sturdy and user-friendly.
The housing must be sturdy and user-friendly.


You should always test your new housing before you take it underwater with a camera inside. Seal the empty housing, attach a weight and a strong line, and lower it over the side to the depth at which you will be taking pictures. Lowering it a few feet deeper will give you the assurance that your camera will be protected against greater water pressure if it should accidentally be taken deeper than intended.


Many housings make it impossible to use the camera’s viewfinder, in which case you need to mount an auxiliary frame viewfinder on top of the housing. Because of parallax, you will need a wire frame that projects out in front of the housing and in front of the lens for close-ups. (Parallax error occurs when the scene viewed by the photographer through the camera’s viewing frame is different from the scene the lens will capture because the viewing frame is offset from the lens. This difference is less perceptible for normal scenes where the subject is several feet away from the camera but has a greater effect as the subject becomes closer to the camera. See the viewfinder camera for more information on parallax error.)


Special underwater flash units do not require separate housing, however housings are available for many normal flash units.