10 Tips to Take Great Underwater Photos

30/10/2020 8:06 am

The world below the surface is one that’s full of wonder and excitement. With many differences from the world we live in on land, underwater photography provides some amazing opportunities for incredible images and new discoveries.


But because of these differences, underwater photography can be particularly tricky to master, especially if it's your first try. But with the right equipment and a little preparation, you can learn to capture great underwater photos.

Take a look at our 10 tips to help you out.

1. Start at the shallow end 


The expression ‘dip your toes in’ certainly applies to underwater photography. Depending on your skill level as a photographer and your diving experience, holding your first underwater photography session tens of metres below the surface may be a tad too ambitious. If it's your first try, consider shooting in shallower water so that you don't have to try so hard to balance the two skills simultaneously. This will also give you the chance to go above the surface of the water if you need to adjust camera settings or review your results. 


10 Tips to take great underwater photos

2. Use the right camera gear 


While disposable waterproof cameras are great for beginners, you’ll need to upgrade your gear to get the best from your underwater photography. There are different types of camera you can choose from, including a high-quality DSLR or a mirrorless camera with underwater housing or a waterproof camera. 


The interchangeable lens options will yield the best quality results, with the larger image sensors of these cameras being better equipped to handle low light conditions, but the downside is that they are also more expensive and larger in size. 

Underwater compact cameras allow you to experience a more point-and-shoot-style approach, and do not require any additional equipment to go underwater, making them much more budget-friendly.

10 Tips to take great underwater photos

3. Get up close and personal


Due to the much darker conditions experienced underwater, you may have noticed your previous attempts at underwater photography have produced murky and grainy results. These issues will be exacerbated the further away you are from your subjects, so to avoid this problem, you should get as close as possible to whatever you are shooting. 


4. Use manual settings 


It’s not always easy to adjust your camera settings underwater, but having a basic understanding of the exposure triangle and how these key settings work together will help you overcome some of the obstacles to produce pleasing results. As your camera settings for underwater photos will be different to shooting other types of photos, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with these settings.


Shooting at a higher ISO can let in more light, something which is needed underwater, and will allow you to then use a faster shutter speed, so you can try and capture moving subjects, such as wildlife easily. Aperture is needed to experiment with the depth of field of your images and can also be used to produce brighter images when needed. These settings can be hard for beginners to adjust in unison, which is why aperture and shutter priority modes are great - you can adjust either setting for creative effect, leaving your camera to do the rest.

5. Use Macro mode


If you’re trying to get close up shots of your subjects, you could benefit from the macro setting of your camera to give you the most accurate and timely focus. The Macro setting automatically prepares your lens to focus within a smaller range, so it will prevent it from hunting to find a focal point. 


A word of warning, you will run into problems if you suddenly change course and shoot something further away, so know the limitations of your macro mode and be prepared to turn it off if necessary! 


6. Familiarise yourself with your camera above water


As when you shoot above water, in darker conditions, it can be tricky to identify settings or buttons on your camera. For this reason you should identify and master the key settings when you are on land, so that you can recall them with greater ease if necessary later on. 


Your main camera settings should be locked in before you dive in, so that you won't be forced to change anything too much when it is already difficult to do so.

10 Tips to take great underwater photos
10 Tips to take great underwater photos

7. Try to keep still as you shoot


Moving while you are taking a photo is a sure-fire way to end up with a load of blurry, disappointing images. This is enhanced when considering the slower shutter speeds necessary for photographing underwater. To combat this, you should attempt to brace yourself and hold as still as possible before you press your shutter.


Some people use breathing techniques to help them succeed, while others recommend a trial run with an empty camera housing so you can experience what it is like to manage a camera while you dive, before you start taking things more seriously. 


8. Make the most of the sun


The deeper you go underwater, the less light the sun provides - that's just the way it is. You should expect your underwater images to be dimly lit, which will also result in your images having a colour cast.


You can, however, take a few steps to improve the lighting of your underwater images and harness the power of the sun. The first choice is to take lots of photos closer to the surface of the water. However, if this isn't yielding any interesting subjects, schedule your shoot for when the sun is directly overhead and at its most powerful.

9. Consider artificial lighting


If you want a more consistent approach to your underwater photography, you can shun natural lighting and instead opt for artificial light with specialist photography lighting. The built-in flash of your camera will be very limited underwater and only good for subjects that are right in front of your lens.


To combat this, we recommend using a strobe. By increasing illumination, a strobe will also eliminate the colour casts that we mentioned earlier and will allow you to shoot at faster shutter speeds, which will reduce blur from shaky hands and from fast-paced subjects. 


10. Spend some time on editing


While capturing a great photo is obviously beneficial, it’s the editing that can really make your underwater photos shine. The editing stage is the perfect opportunity for you to attempt to undo some of the issues that arise from shooting in such difficult conditions. Increasing brightness and contrast is a great place to start, while adjusting white balance can remove colour casts if your camera has not been able to do this accurately automatically. 


By shooting in RAW, you’ll have greater latitude when editing, so this is the best choice if your camera allows - just make sure you have a good-sized memory card to work with. Before you share your images, use the cropping tool to straighten your images and also crop out any unnecessary features - it's your choice what you place within your frame and by being selective you can produce more professional-looking results from your underwater photography.

10 Tips to take great underwater photos

Practice your underwater photography skills now

Underwater photography can test your camera skills and push you to the next level. It can take practice and patience, but you can soon learn to produce some amazing results. You can explore the best cameras for underwater photography to help you show off your new skills and find equipment that will enhance the quality of your photos. At Ted’s Cameras, we stock everything you need for amazing underwater photography. Benefit from in-store click and collect or free shipping over $100. 

Want to take your photography even further? Check out some more great articles on our blog.


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