Getting Started in Underwater Photography

Mention the words “Underwater Photography” and most people think of large equipment, the price of a small car, with lots of different accessories and attachments added on to be able to take great photos.  For me way back in 2002 when I first started snorkelling with a Sony Cybershot 3.1 megapixel camera, it conjured up nightmares of being told at Belize’s Blue Hole that I needed a much larger camera to capture any kind of decent picture.  At a dive show at a later stage I overheard the words “Huh, if she concentrates on compact cameras, she doesn’t know anything about underwater photography.”   At that time I never even dreamed to winning a prize in photography, I simply wanted to help show how beautiful our oceans were to those who were unable to experience them and inspire how sharks had a gentler side to them and how shark accidents were just that – unfortunate accidents.

Well, fast forward to some 15 years later and even though I still have a lot to learn and in photography there is always something to take onboard, 23 of my guests have won prizes, Daniel Norwood regularly writes for DivePhotoGuide, Erick Higuera’s work is endorsed by many amazing names in the dive industry in the USA, 8 have won Sport Diver Photo of the Month competitions, The British Society of Underwater Best Beginner and so the list goes on – but on another page or you will all fall asleep pretty soon!

So if your wishlist is to get into underwater photography and capture everything from scenic reefs capes to curious pinky nail sized critters, well, I’d love to share all the tips and tricks that I’ve learnt from shooting and sinking lots of different cameras, lenses and strobes to help take those photos that you’ve always dreamt of and save money along the way from not shelling out on equipment that you don’t need to take amazing pictures.

Well, you are probably saying, which camera should I buy?

The first question to ask yourself is what kind of photographs catch your eye and would like to take?  For those passionate about their smaller creatures, sometimes just a compact camera with no manual controls , together with an underwater housing is enough to capture these with sharpness and ease-of-use.  Those passionate about capturing the larger things in underwater life such as caves, wrecks, reef scenes and your buddies would most definitely benefit from a wide angle lens on the front of a housing to be able to get closer to the subject, thereby reducing the water column and making the overall picture far more sharp, colourful and far less blue!

If you are shy about playing with all the different controls that some compact cameras can offer, Sealife, the Canon Ixus or Olympus Tough range or of course Go Pros offer fabulous photos with a huge amount of ease.  For those looking to develop their skills and invest in a system with which they can grow, Canon’s Powershot S or G series, Sony’s RX 100 range or new Alpha series are great options to grow and get super creative with.

Finally, housings – where to start when there are so many different choices?  Again, it all depends, not surprisingly, on budget and with what you feel comfortable with.  Some housings are simple enough to navigate whereas others can need you to hold down 2 buttons at once to change a setting – not easy when action evolves.   The camera’s own housings are great choices for those starting out, but for those who are looking for something a little more robust, or something that they can go down that little bit deeper with without such a risk of flooding, Ikelite, Fantasea, Recsea or Nauticam housings can be a wise investment.

With so many choices, options and settings, underwater photography can be incredibly confusing for those starting out, and I really hope that this guide helps you in some way to get those photos that you’ve always dreamt of.

As always, feel free to ping me any questions that you may have and wish you lots of happy photo bubbles.



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