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What kind of cameras are available?

Some tips for
 better results


Underwater Photography

All those cool photographs you see of coral, fish,
wrecks, and reefs aren't so easily come by.




















What Kind of Cameras Are Available?
Here are a few pro's and con's

Recent advances in camera technology give you a number of options for underwater photography

Underwater cameras. These cameras are designed for underwater use only.

  • (+) Primarily film cameras at this point, they provide the best underwater technology
  • (+) Easier to repair if they flood.
  • (+) There is quite a range of cameras to select from. Some (e.g. Sea and Sea at right) have built-in strobes .
  • (-) They can only be used for underwater photos
  • (-) They normally cost more than surface/regular cameras
  • (-) Not as many accessories as surface/regular cameras

Normal cameras in underwater housings. Now you can choose between film and digital formats.

  • (+) Wide array of housings available for many cameras
  • (+) More accessories available
  • (+) Use for surface photography as well
  • (+) Film or digital cameras
  • (-) Often a housing is bulky
  • (-) Not easy to repair if the housing floods
  • (-) Housings can be expensive.  The housing for a Canon A2 shown here retails for $750 - more than the camera costs.



Underwater Photography Tips

Taking good underwater photographs takes time, experience, and good equipment.  Here are some tips to help you improve your subsurface shots, particularly if you're not a pro:

  • Time.  If you're diving with a group, it's hard to take the time you may need to compose a good picture.  While you're composing, the group will either swim on forcing you to catch up later, or will wait impatiently for you to take your picture.  For this reason, solo shore or boat diving with a buddy gives you the uninterrupted time to compose your shots.  Diving on liveaboards provides this opportunity, too.  If you are with a group, be respectful of their diving experience, too, and do the best you can without holding them up.

  • Shoot lots of pictures.  Undersea photography is the same as surface wildlife photography in this aspect.  You need to take a lot of pictures to get a few good ones.  You probably won't have the opportunity to go back to the same place again, much less set up the same shot.  Be sure you have plenty of film with you.

  • Get close.  Due to lighting, water conditions, etc., it's often easier to take close-ups underwater. 

  • Plan ahead.  Often it's easier to decide what kind of shots you want to take while you're still on the surface.  You can set up your camera ahead of time.  While many cameras allow you to change lenses underwater, switching from micro to macro down below isn't always easy.

  • Lighting.  You can't rely on natural light to help you much at depth.  You'll need flashes, strobes, and lights.  Inadequate light is one of the primary reasons underwater shots don't turn out well. If you take a disposable camera housed in a waterproof case and rely on the built-in flash, you can't expect to get great shots. (Stay as close to the surface as you can if this is your setup.  You'll need help from as much natural light as you can get.  Stay with close-ups, too.)

  • Keep steady.  Easier said than done.  Currents, your buoyancy and breathing, and sea life movement within your composition will all conspire to blur your shot or make you hurry.  Practice will show you how to control some of these factors, but can you make that fish just hang in one spot until you're done? 

  • Refraction.  When you're underwater, objects will appear closer than they actually are.  Fortunately, both you and your camera see the distance the same way.  Set your distance setting to the apparent distance, not to the actual distance.

  • Backscatter.  Water is not transparent.  There are millions of tiny particles floating in it.  They will cloud your picture and reflect the light from your strobe or flash.  Two ways to reduce backscatter are to not stir up the bottom, and to position your strobe properly.



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