Underwater Photography: (How To Do An Underwater Photoshoot?)

In between trying to remain steady against the steady current of the water, and taking a quick shot of a strange-looking sea creature with your camera, you realize that all the amazing underwater pictures you have grown to love are a result of skill and patience.

Indeed, underwater photography is leagues ahead of most types of photography in terms of complexities. It comprises all forms of photography underwater, with subjects ranging from sea animals to underwater topography, relief, and vegetation. 

At first consideration, you might assume all you need to venture into taking pictures underwater is the ability to swim, however, it goes beyond swimming. In this article, we shall look at all you need to know to start or make your underwater photoshoot better. 5 key areas are covered which include:

  • Diving Skill
  • Equipment
  • Environment
  • Light
  • Photography Style

Read More Related Post > How to Plan for Travel Photography Trip?

How To Do An Underwater Photoshoot

Let’s Check out in detailed top 5 tips and tricks for underwater photography.

01. Diving Skill

At the mention of underwater, of course, swimming comes to mind. However, by swimming, we mean either snorkeling or scuba diving. Both are unique and demand different levels of skills and equipment. Further down the article, you will come to understand the extent to which each affects your pictures. 


Snorkeling in simple terms means swimming close to the surface of the water. An average swimmer can start out at this level. The required swimming equipment includes a snorkel, swim fins, a mask, a wetsuit, and your camera for more skilled swimmers. However, if you have no swimming experience, you can start out with a life vest, or swim belt.

With snorkeling, you are limited to whales, dolphins, and other animals that swim too close to the surface of the water. You might need a basic understanding of the behavior of light in water(which has been discussed below). 

If you are new to pictures underwater, then start by snorkeling to grow your skill, and get comfortable with water. With time, you can go to the next level, which is scuba diving.

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving involves going deeper into the water. This is a more demanding type of diving. People who are skilled at scuba diving can begin photographing marine habitats as long as they understand the peculiarities of taking pictures in deep waters.

However, if you are not a trained scuba diver and you are interested in going deep, then your first step would be to get trained to be a scuba diver and get certified. The entire process will take a few weeks. Apart from the photographic equipment, you would need:

  • Scuba Tank
  • Mask 
  • A Dry Suit Or Wetsuit 
  • Buoyancy Compensator (Bc) 
  • Regulators 
  • Weights, And Fins

One of the most important factors that determine whether or not you would capture great images of scuba diving is your buoyancy, which is the ability to spread your weight underwater, remaining balanced for a long time to be able to take very close-up pictures. Buoyancy is a major 

With scuba diving, you are exposed to a variety of subjects to snap at, from coral reefs to octopuses, arachnids, a wide range of underwater landscapes, vegetation, etc. However, you will be shooting at extreme conditions, although equipped with key equipment to help you manage the complexities. 

02. Equipment

When it comes to taking pictures underwater, either when snorkeling or scuba diving, your photography equipment can be the difference between a productive day and a few hours wasted. Below is a list of equipment you need.

  • Camera
  • House
  • Flash/Strobe


Of course, what is photography without cameras? There are 3 types of cameras you have to consider, however, based on your budget. These are compact cameras, action cameras, and mirrorless/DSLR cameras.

Compact cameras include bridge cameras and rugged compact cameras. What they all have in common is their fixed lens. The lenses they come with have both wide lenses, macro, and telephoto capabilities.

This serves as an advantage over the need to change lenses underwater which is practically impossible for now. These cameras have houses within which they can be operated underwater.

Action cameras are easy-to-use cameras, and water-proof used to record diving. They are awesome for both taking photos in burst mode and recording actions,  and are known for being rugged.

You can hold one in your hands or mount it on your headgear so you can shoot from your point of view. By far the easiest to operate and suitable for snorkeling-related photography.  

Mirrorless and DSLR cameras are high-end digital cameras. They are both unique in their interchangeable lenses. They are used for the best photographic work, and they allow you to manually control the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, which is important for deep water photography.

Of course, you are stuck to using just one lens, however, with the ability to manually control some of the features of the camera, you can beat great odds. They are used with both light and strobes, which makes them quite bulky. Altogether, these types of cameras are perfect for professionals.


Housing is an external casing built for cameras operated underwater. These casings are waterproof and are equipped to allow control of the cameras (including manual control) put into them. One thing to know about cases is that they are built to match specific cameras. This means, your digital camera has its own unique casing.

Flash And Strobe

Lighting underwater is discussed at length below. However, to make up for light deficiency which is a natural phenomenon underwater, you need external sources of light. You either go for a flash or a strobe, both of which perform the same function.

03. Environment

One of the most challenging aspects of shooting underwater is water! This is why learning snorkeling and then scuba diving is rather important with scuba diving being the most demanding. Another aspect of the environment that requires a degree of study is the habitat. You would need a rounded knowledge of the animals and their behavior to have a decent shot at capturing them.

When it comes to understanding water animals for photography, the purpose is so you know exactly what to look for once you are under. A second reason is you do not harm or disturb their natural environment. It is unethical to manipulate them just for the satisfaction of a great picture.

A final aspect concerning the environment is safe. With snorkeling, you get to swim onboard in minutes. However, with scuba diving, you might have to stay under for 2 hours for a few perfect shots. The last thing you want is to have your tube go limp just as soon as you get a perfect shot. 

04. Light

Light is the core of photography. Without light, there is no photography. Consequently, the biggest challenge of underwater photoshoots is little light. The level to which you will have a problem with light is dependent on how deep you go and the distance between you and your subject. The deeper you go, the darker it gets. Also, red light gets absorbed more quicker by water which can leave your picture bluer. To manage do the following.

Shoot Closer To The Surface Using Daylight

If you shoot close to the surface, you have the advantage of daylight. The very nature of water is that it absorbs light. Therefore you would need to adjust the white balance to make up for any deficiencies in your pictures.  

Shoot Using Strobes Or Flash

Going deeper underwater, it gets darker. To tackle this, you would need to use flashlights or strobes on your subject. However, there are key things to note when using external lights underwater. First, you need to be very close to your subject and use the high-intensity light to make up for the water-absorbing some of the light.

Secondly, you have to direct your light at an angle. Directly pointing your light at your subjects leads to backscatter. Backscatter occurs when the light is reflected back by particles in the water, thereby leading to noise making your picture unusable.

Shoot Using A Wide Aperture, High ISO, And SLower Shutter Speed

This setting is perfect for shooting under low light conditions which are dominant under water. Manually setting your camera to adjust to light conditions is a lot of work while underwater, and it gets even harder considering you will be doing this through the housing with which you put your camera. However, practicing would make it easier over time.

05. Photography Style

Predominantly, two styles of photography best suit the condition of shooting underwater. These include macro and wide-angle photography. Macro photography requires very close-up snaps of sea creatures such that they fill up the frame, rendering them larger than they really are. When produced, macro-pictures are extremely beautiful.

 Wide-angle photography tries to capture both the animal and its environment. A fish eye lens is perfect for wide-angle photography underwater.

People Also Ask (FAQ’s)

Do I need to be a professional swimmer to get into underwater photography?

You require a level of swimming skill to snorkel and take pictures. However, to go deeper underwater, it is required you are trained as a scuba diver.

What photographic equipment do I need to be able to take pictures underwater?

First, you need your swimming kits either for snorkeling or scuba diving. Then you need your choice camera which would be operated within a house. You also need your flash or strobe for lighting. 

Final Thoughts

An Underwater photoshoot is demanding as it requires both diving skills and professional photographic skills. Both of these skills are attainable through practice and study and by following the tips discussed in this guide. Do this and soon, you will be proud of the kind of pictures you will get.