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Underwater Photography: Tips and Tricks

Underwater Photography: Tips and Tricks


Underwater photography

The PADI Underwater Photography Course is for you if you are addicted to scuba and addicted to taking photographs.

Scuba diving is beautiful and so it is only natural to want to capture this beauty with a camera. Underwater photography is similar to photography on land – but there are some differences. You need to know and understand these differences in order to get the most out of taking photographs beneath the waves. The PADI Underwater Photography Course is for you if you are addicted to scuba and addicted to taking photographs.

Before you get started however, make sure that your scuba diving skills are up to scratch. Buoyancy control is paramount to being able to take photos safely underwater. Dont worry if they are not however – the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Speciality Course will take care of everything and you photos will be that much sharper because of it.




Important Underwater Photography Facts


Underwater Photography

Underwater Photography: How depth determines colour

Water absorbs light in the order of the spectrum. Red is the first to go, then orange, yellow, green and so on. Scuba divers can add a strobe (external flash) to counteract this effect.

Water also reduces contrast and sharpness. Photos should be taken within a meter of the subject (the closer the better)

Sunlight steals colour: Always make sure you have the sun behind you.




Underwater Photography Definitions


  • Strobe or flash: A source of full spectrum light (essential for UW Photographs)
  • Internal Flash: The flash that come with most cameras. Dont be surprised if you experience “backscatter” on most of your shots.
  • Underwater Housing: This keeps your camera dry and usable underwater
  • O-ring – a rubber ring that creates a waterproof seal.
  • Wide angle: Gives you a large field of vision
  • Ambient Light: The available surrounding light. This diminishes the deeper you go
  • Backscatter:  specks, spots or blotches that appear in your underwater photos due to light from your flash reflecting off particles, sand or plankton in the water.This looks like dust on the lense, but it’s not, it is just particles in the water. Use a strobe instead.
  • White Balance:  A setting on cameras telling the camera’s processor how to interpret the pixel values it records when taking a photograph.


    Underwater Photography

    Read your Camera’s Manual

    Advice for first time Underwater Photographers

  • Use a flash for anything further than 1 meter. Set it to forced flash and not on the default auto flash setting. This will add colour to your shots, otherwise they will all look a little too blue.
  • Use Macro mode for anything close up (2-60cm) , or your shots will be mostly out of focus.
  • Use auto-white balance when using an internal flash, this again reduces the blue tinge from your images. If you are not using the flash then learn the manual white balance settings for your particular make of camera. Read Your manual!
  • Try to fill the frame: get as close as you can at eye level with your subject.  The closer you are, the better your color, contrast and sharpness will be


  • Try using the half focus option to cut down focusing problems. Simply press the shutter button half way, allowing the camera to focus before pressing it fully to take your shot.


Until you have more practice concentrate on 2 types of underwater shot:


  1. Close-up shots in macro mode, forced flash, auto-white balance, spot-focus, with the subject no more than 5-6 centimeters  away
  2. Scenic shots a couple of meters away, macro mode off, flash off, custom white balance in shallow, sunny water

Need more tips and tricks?

Sign up today for your PADI Underwater Photography Course!

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