Expert advice for taking underwater photos

Underwater shot

Some of the coolest photos come from one of the most difficult places to photograph: underwater. But it’s not impossible. As with all things photography, there’s some gear involved, but once you get that sorted, trial and error are the best teachers.

Get the right gear
Gear is obviously a huge part of underwater photography, and there are a couple ways to go about it. You either go with a waterproof camera, or put your camera in some sort of waterproof housing. The former is obviously the easy solution, while the latter is more difficult, and generally more expensive.

The mighty GoPro has got to top the list of affordability and ease-of-use. These multi-purpose workhorses can easily add underwater camera to their list of credentials, as they come standard with a water housing. For the price, they’re tough to beat. Check out bacskatter.com for a list of other waterproof cameras of varying prices.

Waterhousings are what the pros use. They can be as complicated as you want and feature as many add-ons, gadgets and do-hickies as you could ever need. They also cost a pretty penny. Waterhousings often cost as much, or more than the camera itself. A huge investment for a couple shots of your rubber ducky in the bathtub. But if you want the best, then check out backscatter.com. They’ve got it all.

Canon does a great job of offering water housings for many of their lower priced Powershot cameras. They come in at a little less than the price of the camera and offer control of nearly all the camera’s functions.

Bag your camera
For camera-specific bags, there are a number of manufacturers, including Aquapac, making waterproof bags for cameras. They’re priced right, but require a lot of care to work properly. Make sure you get the right bag for your camera/lens combination. The trickiest thing with these is keeping the plastic in front of the lens flat and ensuring no moisture gets in the bag. You’re also limited on how much control you have of the camera. So they’re not the perfect solution for underwater photography, but they’re priced right to get you started.

Try it in a swimming pool
Before you take your camera to the Great Barrier Reef, do some practicing in a swimming pool. Working out all the bugs before you get out on the adventure of a lifetime will help you work out all the inevitable kinks with your gear and the lighting situations. Taking shots of you friends and relatives will help you decipher the settings you need to get the shots you want. You’ll also have a chance to check out the images on screen, so you’ll have a good idea if you’re really getting what you want.

Use available light
Without getting super technical, the easiest shots will always be shot during daytime. Using a flash underwater is a whole other level of complication, so to keep it simple, shoot during bright, sunny days. And obviously, the clearer the water, the better your shots will be.

Mind your composition
Just because you’re underwater doesn’t mean all rules of photography go out the window. They still apply. You still need to include a subject and a background. And the rule of thirds still applies. It’s a little more difficult to think clearly about them underwater, but try to adhere to them.

Lick your lens
If you’re having trouble with water droplets sticking to your water housing’s lens cover, a tried and tested solution is to give it a good solid lick. Something about saliva helps the cover from gathering droplets and is the cheapest piece of camera equipment you’ll ever need!