Underwater photography

Underwater photography is the process of taking photographs while underwater. It is usually done while scuba diving, but can be done in other manners, such as while snorkeling or swimming.



Underwater photography is extremely challenging since it is difficult to capture the image of a moving object, such as a fish, while the photographer is also moving. Many of the "rules" of photography still apply underwater but they must be used with some thought. A lot of advice can be found in scuba magazines and underwater photo web sites.

For those beginning at underwater photography, inexpensive waterproof disposable cameras can be purchased. These are identical to their land-based cousins, but are housed in a rigid waterproof shell. Care should be taken to check the maximum depth rating on cameras before understanding a dive, as many cannot withstand high pressure. Disposable cameras with maximum depths of only 10-18m are common.

More serious photographers use a regular camera with a special watertight housing. These cameras have the advantage of being able to withstand greater depths, and are also re-usable, however the housing rarely allows the full functions of the camera to be accessed. Either film or digital cameras can be used. Some specialised cameras have an underwater mode that change the features, operation, or interface of the camera for underwater use.

Underwater flashes

One particular challenge in underwater photography is that of using a flash. As the depth of water increases, less light arrives from the surface, and lower-frequencies of light (reds and oranges) are absorbed. As with any photography in a low-light situation, the use of a flash is preferred.

However, most water contains a large amount of particles, which air does not. Using a flash causes reflections, or backscatter from these particles, resulting in photographs with white dots in them, giving a grainy or sandy appearance.

To overcome the problem of backscatter, good underwater flashes are mounted on an arm-like assembly, that fires the flash at the target far away from the lens. This provides illumination, but does not result in backscatter.

A cheaper alternative to specialised flashes is to use an underwater flashlight. The photographer can illuminate the target from the side using the flashlight, and then use the camera to take the photograph.


  • 1856 William Thompson takes first underwater pictures using a camera mounted on a pole.
  • 1893 Louis Boutan take underwater pictures while diving using a surface supplied hard hat diving gear.
  • 1923 W.H. Longley and Charles Martin takes first underwater colour photos using a magnesium powered flash
  • 1957 the Calypso camera was built by Jean De Wouters and Jacques-Yves Cousteau, it would later be produced by Nikon as the Nikonos, the most sold underwater camera series.

External links

Consumer Reviews

Underwater Camera Reviews (http://www.thescubaguide.com/d/-22-1.aspx) at the Scuba Guide. An independent resource for the cautious consumer. Read and submit user reviews of underwater cameras.

Professional underwater photographers' websites

Underwater Photography References



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