Underwater Photography Tips: Photography Guide


Being one of the most thrilling and exciting summer water adventures, scuba diving is an activity that will create some of the most amazing memories of your life and it will bring you the chance to experience something you’ll gladly remember forever. That’s why it is a good idea to learn how to properly use the diving camera, to capture those moments and memories and be able to summon them even after years pass by.

There are many different techniques and ways you could use your camera, but with these tips and guides, you should be able to get the most out of your every scuba diving session.

How To Make Interesting Underwater Photos

These eight tips will help you achieve the best possible quality of your underwater photo session:

1. Adjust Shutter Speed

Most of the time slowing down the shutter speed will help to get the most out of light by lightening the watercolor.

2. He Who Dares, Wins

Meeting wildlife can sometimes be quite scary for you or the animal, but it is worth taking a chance. Be persistent if you see something worth documenting and take your chance. Of course, make sure all the safety measures have been met, but as long as you’re not in danger, don’t be afraid to take a risk. Be respectful to the sea and it will pay you back.

3. The Closer, The Better

Do your best to get as close as possible to your targeted scene. The goal is to let the underwater strobes do their work and bring the natural detail out.

4. Don’t Rush It

Patience is a virtue. If you wait long enough, some pretty amazing things could occur in your presence. Remember, many animals have to get to know you before they become relaxed enough to start to behave naturally with you nearby.

5. Don’t Let Anything Surprise You

 The best part of nature is the fact that you can’t predict it, so always be prepared to react and have your camera on standby.

6. Background Exposure

Learning how to properly set up the background exposure is important because the background light can vary and it can easily go from bright light to really dark. Once you learn how to properly expose the background, it shouldn’t be much of a problem to capture amazing things.

7. Sunlight Is Your Friend

Combine exposing for the background with strobes filling in the shadows and if you get close enough to your target, the final result will most likely be an overly dramatic but cool effect.

8. Angle Your Photo Right

Many underwater images will already be amazingly interesting, but you could easily add an even more dramatic tone to your photos by simply taking your photo upward.

More Basic Tips

You know eight simple tricks to make your photos look great, but many other tips and tricks will take your game to another level.


Water affects the color, contrast, and sharpness, so you should do your best to get to the subject as near as 12 inches to prevent your image from spilling. If you’ll be shooting with the help of the natural light, do it in 20 feet of water or even less while keeping the sun behind you.


You’ll need camera flash basically all the time, so turn the “forced flash” option on. If using a flash, set the auto white-balance up, while if you decide to go without the flash, go with custom white balance mode. If your camera has it, try out manual mode so you learn how to control the light balance between the natural and the light from your flash.


For a great underwater photo, the best option is to focus your camera on the eyes of your subject. This way you’ll achieve a more intimate moment. Also, take your time to learn how your camera focus works and how to use it without taking a photo. It is important to learn how to use the focus the fastest.

Compact Camera Underwater Photo Tips


Compact cameras are, thanks to their size, the most popular types of cameras. They may not provide top quality as the professional cameras do, but these tips will help you overcome that difference without much effort.

  • Use the duct tape to cover the front side of the housing if you use an external strobe, or you’ll get backscatter from the internal flash.
  • Learn how to operate macro mode focusing and use it if you get the chance.
  • Place the external flash as far from your housing as possible and block your internal flash.
  • Use the dive light
  • With the flash off, set your white balance manually or put it on the underwater setting.
  • Avoid using digital zoom.

If you use only internal flash:

  • The closer you get, the better the image will be in the case of lowered visibility. Check out what affects underwater visibility.
  • Long shots are better without the flash as this way you’ll save the colors
  • Without flash, use manual white balance mode, while with flash set it to auto.
  • Underwater photography lenses will provide a wider range of focal lengths

Mistakes That Occur Most Often

Some mistakes happen often, especially with newbies, so this is how to avoid them:

  • Skipping to use manual white balance every 5 feet will lead to blue photos.
  • Don’t forget about the contrast! If possible, shoot in clear water, try to get close, and use strobes for light.
  • Strobes will also prevent photos with the lack of color by lightening the subject up. You could also go with fast shutter speed, get closer, or set your waterproof camera to remove ambient light.
  • Sometimes shooting vertically is better than landscape mode.
  • Don’t be shy and feel free to get closer – Shooting from more than 3 feet away will affect the image quality.
  • Skip the long zoom lens.
  • Be patient and go step by step, you can’t catch it all in one photo.
  • Check the ISO and JPEG quality setting.
  • Avoid over-saturating your photos. Go with 5 to 10%.

Underwater Photography Guide – How To Start

OK, you’ve made up your mind, you know you want to but don’t know how to start. Here are a few underwater photography tips to make your first steps easier:

  • Just shoot! If you’re a newbie, anything around you may be a great photo subject. Even the local place you’re visiting often.
  • Use raw mode when possible.
  • Histogram and highlights screen maybe your best friends underwater, so learn how to use them.
  • Check others for inspiration, but dare to do things your way. You can’t be wrong.
  • When purchasing, go with the best gear available to you. This way you won’t have to worry about any malfunctions.
  • When approaching the subject, don’t do it from above. Get down, stay calm, let it become relaxed with you nearby, and don’t rush anything.

Possible Problems

Some problems do occur occasionally, and this is how to solve them:

  • If the strobe starts to fire unpredictably, head back to the surface, dry it out along with the sync cord and bulkhead connections.
  • If the strobe power is getting low, turn the ISO up and shoot at a larger aperture. This way you’ll use less of a strobe battery.
  • If the top or the bottom of your photography is black, it most likely means the shutter speed is faster than the sync speed.
  • Red or white orange most often is a consequence of the wrong white balance mode usage.
  • If the colors are still weak even with an internal flash or a strobe, this means too much ambient light is reaching your camera.

Camera Fogging Up

This one is one of the most spread problems among underwater photographers and it can be nerve-wracking. Here is how to avoid it:

  • Have at least one or two fresh and new desiccants in your underwater camera housing to keep the moisture away.
  • Setup the housing in a dry area to avoid moisture reaching the inside of the housing. If it occurs, it will lead to fogging.
  • Make sure your camera and housing are cool and out of the sun. It is recommended to place a wet towel over it while outside.
  • Be careful with housing closing, not to catch desiccant in the o-ring. If it does happen, it may fall into the lens port and cause damage.
  • Try to skip compact cameras as they are most likely to fog up.

Nothing To Capture

Sometimes, against all our hopes and expectations, there will be no fish or other sea creatures willing to participate in a photo session, so you’ll be on your own. Instead of giving up, try to be creative. Go for ambient, try to find basically anything that can be interesting. Or simply start fooling around and you may end up with something worth keeping.

Globo Surf Overview

Underwater photography is an amazing way to preserve many memories you’ll be gathering along the way on your scuba dive, but simple point-and-click won’t work most of the time. To avoid stress, take this underwater photography guide and go step by step until you find the best setup for you.

More Scuba Reviews:


  1. Underwater photography tips, uwphotographyguide.com
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!