Tips for Taking Underwater Photos

Once you're adept at taking underwater photos, you'll pull a Sebastian and agree that it's better down where it's wetter. Take it from me.

Underwater photos are super popular right now, and have been ever since the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind album hit store shelves in the 90s. Even before that, finding shots taken by someone like Jacques Cousteau was something deemed admirable. 

Taking underwater photos isn't easy, nor is it cheap to do. You will need special gear, and if you try taking photos with an iPhone underwater, you will also need a new phone. 

Looking to get adventurous with your photos, or take a picture of your favorite little mermaid? If you're ready to dive into underwater photography, these tips will definitely help you out.

The first tip you need to know is that you need an underwater camera.

If you thought you could use one of the best DSLR cameras to do your photos, you're mistaken. A regular camera will not do well in water and will likely die the moment you take a dip. You will need a waterproof camera in order to get those shots. 

We suggest the AKASO V50 Camera, which has 4K detail, video capabilities, a wide angle lens, and wi-fi connectivity. It's versatile and works great in most situations. (You also could probably get a fisheye lens for it, too.)

However, if you aren't going to spring for a new camera, there are other options.

A lot of people start taking underwater photos with a GoPro that's placed in a case. You can buy a GoPro Super Suit pretty easily on Amazon in most cases, and it works well with some of the better GoPro bags on the market.

You could also look at underwater camera housing, if you're interested in keeping your main camera in use. Adjusting your camera settings may be tricky or impossible with this route, though. 

Others get a bit riskier, and start off by taking photos with their iPhone placed in a Ziploc plastic bag. (For the record, we do not suggest taking the "plastic bag" route because if water gets in, your phone will be done for.)

You can't shoot anywhere, per se...

Though it seems like taking underwater photos will be a cinch, the truth isn't so simple. You can't just shoot anywhere; planning your shoot is crucial if you want to be able to get good shots with a little water in the mix.

You will need to find a place that has clear (or at least not murky) water. Natural light will be your most likely bet here, so you'll also need to find a sunny day if you want classic beach shots. If you're doing night shots, a clear sky and clear waters will be best.

Noon is the best time to shoot daytime shots. However, if you're looking for special types of lighting, such as sunset and sunrise shots, you'll have to plan that out too. Consider where you'll be in regards to the sun's position. 

Waves matter, especially when it comes to mood.

As far as waves go, you're going to need to plan out a couple of things. If you want high-action "shoot as the wave crashes down on you" shots, you're going to need areas where high waves are the norm. 

Most of the time, though, you're going to need areas where waters are relatively still. This allows you to get crisper shots, to pose your models well, and to also hunker down underwater if need be. 

Regardless of where you shoot, avoid riptides. They can be deadly and you don't want to sacrifice your life while taking underwater photos. 

If you really like "Bermuda" style shots, look for waters where there's light sand.

When taking underwater photos, try to find sandy beaches rather than silt-y beaches. Sand reflects light beautifully, especially on clear water. It'll help your models and your overall scene look perfectly tropical in the best way possible. 

Before you take the plunge, set up your equipment carefully.

If you're using a camera housing device to keep your DSLR dry, make sure to assemble it carefully. Check to make sure your device is locked in, airtight, and undamaged. If you notice any issues, address them before you hit the water.

In terms of camera settings, you will want to take care of it before you try taking underwater pictures.

  • Make sure that the ISO is set very low (as low as possible).
  • Aperture should be around f8, unless you're doing over/under shots which require a smaller opening.
  • Shutter speed should be around 1/400.
  • If you can, just use Autofocus. 

If you're using models, use these tips while taking underwater photography.

Modeling underwater isn't easy. Here are some tips for people who want to help their models pose, or who are taking the plunge for the first time. 

  • Exhale as far as you can before you dive or if you want to sink lower. Air bubbles ruin diving shots, and though exhaling helps reduce their occurrence, air bubbles will still happen from time to time. Photographers, make sure that you avoid taking shots after air bubbles arise. 
  • Try to relax. It's not easy to model underwater. Try to relax, and don't feel like you need the perfect shot immediately. 
  • Take a couple of shots at a time, but don't rush. It will take a lot of diving to get the kind of shots you see on brochures. Take your time posing or playing with different looks. 
  • Watch your facial expression. Underwater, it's easy to look derpy or goofy if you forget you're posing. Do your best to stay aware of your facial features. 
  • Choose your clothing wisely. If you are wearing more than a swimsuit, make sure the clothes you wear flow nicely in water. 
  • Don't choose a model that can't swim. They probably wouldn't be a wise choice when taking underwater photos. 

You seriously do have to watch out for safety issues.

As much fun as taking underwater photos can be, it's also riskier than other photography sessions. When you're shooting, remember the following tips to keep yourself and your models safe:

  • Avoid riptides. Yes, I put this in twice. It's that dangerous. 
  • If you want to play it safe, make sure that you and your model can both stand up in the water at any given moment. There's really no need to deep dive in the beginning, anyway. 
  • Be aware of natural wildlife and avoid places where dangerous critters hang out. You don't want to get stung by a deadly jellyfish, accidentally step on a scorpionfish, or get hit by a Portuguese Man-O-War. Be aware of local wildlife, and don't piss them off. 

Depending on where you shoot, you also need to consider legal issues.

Not all beaches allow underwater photography or cameras. Make sure the area you go for your shoot is cool with you taking underwater photos. Otherwise, it could cause a fine or in some cases (like nude beaches), could end up with you being taken out in handcuffs. 

Finally, remember that Photoshop is a miracle worker.

Taking underwater photos isn't easy, and trust me, there will be SNAFUs along the way. Even top-rated nature photographers won't get the kind of perfect shots you would expect them to get right off the bat. 

If you have decent photos, you can use Photoshop hacks for beginners to make them way better. So, take heart. If things aren't perfect, Photoshop can make them perfect.

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