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Beneath the skies; below the horizon and underneath the land we walk, there exists a mystical world that remains seldom explored. A bliss-in-blue that only a few percentage of the human population have managed to witness; a celestial zone that never fails to deliver the awe to people who come to visit it! A world of its own, underwater is indeed one of the best places on earth.

Filled with tranquility, the ecosystem boasts of some distinct classes of marine creatures that are both extremely vibrant and colorful, and at the same time bizarre and odd. And it is this uniqueness and diversity that makes a few fall in love with the underworld, compelling them to take a slice of this place in the form of images and photographs. But that is not easy, is it?

Underwater Photography:

Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel

Beauty and captivation apart, the pressure underwater and the instability in ocean currents make it real hard for any photographer, regardless of whether he is a pro or an amateur, to take a clear and a visible picture of the waterous environment. So to ease those things off and assist you in taking a decent picture of the underworld, we’ve compiled a few useful tips. Do check them out.

The tips are mentioned considering the fact that you know how to swim, maintain buoyancy levels, have the right equipments like an underwater camera or a digital camera with a plastic housing, flash, proper gears and safety precautions at disposal.

Let’s Dive In:

Unlike photographing on land, underwater photography is difficult. It’s not like you come across a picturesque landscape, stop over it, pull out your cameras, aim and shoot. No, it doesn’t work like that. First of all you need to understand that the subject in underwater is not stationary, it is always on the move. Even if it’s not, you are!

Also, since the environment is entirely different and is mostly devoid of natural light, you may have to learn some of the technical aspects of using your camera like aperture levels, macro shots, using flash and the likes. But don’t worry, because here we have tried to cover almost every technical aspects of handling your camera in the waters, starting with this:


Water as we all know is denser than air, and majorly absorbs light and the relative colors like red, orange and yellow. As you go deeper and deeper, colors tend to lose their visibility leaving only the colors – Blue and Green. So to bring back the colors in the image, it is essential that we use flash. In case you are using an internal flash make sure that you have set it in forced-mode, and try maintaining a distance of less than 4 feet from the subject.

If the subject is 4 or more feet above from you, turn off the flash, because it creates a backscatter effect. Also, time your photo-shoots between ten in the morning and two in the noon, because it is the time the sunlight is at its peak and manages to penetrate deeper in the waters.


Now distance plays a major role in taking impressive photographs underwater. It is true that the subject, apart from the coral reefs, are mobile and always on the move, but as a photographer it is our duty to chase them, linger behind and get the photographs taken. Try to maintain vicinity with your subject (unless they are harmful), and capture them at eye-level.

A distance of three to four feet between you and your subject should be fine to get a decent portfolio shot. Also, learn that objects underwater look twenty five percent closer than they actually are from you. So in case you’re focusing the subject manually, adjust and maintain your distance accordingly.

Other Vital Tips:

  • Always use macro mode to get a better picture of your subject. So before you proceed with taking images, learn the range of your camera’s macro setting because they tend to differ from models to models
  • Staying afloat in the water is quite difficult and specifically with a camera in hand, it is quite tedious. So practice floatation and handling equipments in the waters and get used to it. Get started in your residence’s swimming pool and try staying static while capturing the image
  • As we mentioned, avoid zooming in to your subject from where you stay and rather try getting  as close to it as possible
  • Make sure you enable the flash diffuser that comes attached to the camera’s housing. This is very helpful in softening the light from the internal flash and getting a better picture
  • Always use Auto-White-Balance mode when using internal flash
  • Be a little patient (unless you are choking) because your subject doesn’t know it is going to be a part of your portfolio. Let it take its own time to settle, and before you know it the marine animal will be striking its best pose

So, these were some of the essential tips you can consider while capturing images underwater. And most importantly, never touch, disturb or harm the animals in order for you to take a snap. Let it be natural! Once you’ve mastered these few tips, you can hit the water, be a part and bring home a slice of life underworld just the way you intended to.

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Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos or writing travel articles for Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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