How to Get Started in Underwater Photography Without Wasting Money
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How to Get Started in Underwater Photography Without Wasting Money

In the event you’ve thought of beginning underwater images for the primary time, perhaps you had been delay by how costly and gear-intensive it may be. And it’s true – transitioning from taking pictures on dry land to capturing beautiful underwater photos isn’t simple! It requires cautious planning and strategic gear investments. That’s the place this text will assist. At present, in this step-by-step information, I’ll equip you with every part you want to know to begin your underwater images journey whereas being conscious of your finances.

Step 1: Outline your long-term targets and finances

Start your underwater images journey by envisioning the place you need to be in the following 2-5 years and figuring out how a lot you may comfortably allocate to this pursuit.

While you set clear targets and a finances, you’ll have the ability to make sensible decisions when selecting gear and budgeting for journey. Though it could appear apparent, this step requires plenty of thought. Right here’s my recommendation to approaching the query.

I think about there to be 3 tiers of newbie underwater images:

  • Waterproof level and shoot camera with no equipment – finances: $500-1000
  • Compact camera in a housing plus strobe(s) related through fiberoptics – finances $1000-2,500
  • DSLR or Mirrorless camera in a housing plus strobes related electronically – finances: $3,000+ minimal

Any of those can be a substantial monetary funding, and it might be much more costly if you happen to steadily leap up from one stage to the following. It’s higher to determine the place you propose to find yourself, begin saving for that, and solely purchase it when you may have the finances.

Underwater gear shouldn’t be like shopping for a lens, the place the identical lens will work whilst you improve cameras (at the least inside a specific model). With underwater images, upgrading to a brand new camera requires a brand new housing, new lights, and new equipment.

Though it would harm the pockets initially, generally there wants to be a “go massive or go house” mentality for underwater images. That’s my recommendation if you happen to suppose there’s probability you want to improve inside a pair years of starting your underwater images journey.

bait ball and giant kelp creating good compositions in underwater photography
DC-G9 + LEICA DG SUMMILUX 9/F1.7 @ 9mm, ISO 250, 1/320, f/7.1

Step 2: Buy your underwater camera gear

When you’ve set your thoughts on a sure stage of underwater images, it’s time to make the funding. I’ve a extra intensive article on low cost underwater setups I like to recommend, however listed below are a number of key factors.

Waterproof point-and-shoot camera


  • Most cost-effective possibility
  • Additional small and handy


  • Decrease high quality sensor and lenses
  • Lacks some settings and controls
  • Normally JPEG-only

The Olympus TG-6 is presently probably the most best waterproof level and shoot in the marketplace. GoPros may also take you a great distance, particularly for video. In the event you’re simply making an attempt to dip your toes in the world of underwater images and see if it’s best for you, it is a great way to keep away from spending hundreds of {dollars} up entrance.

underwater photographer photographing a soft shell turtle with a gopro
My pal with a GoPro acquired higher footage of this softshell turtle than I did, partly as a result of it’s a lot smaller, making it simpler to get shut to some animals!

Compact (built-in lens) camera in a housing


  • Good picture high quality in a small bundle
  • Less expensive than full sized rig
  • Ample accent choices, e.g. lighting and lens converters


  • Normally restricted to 1-inch sort sensors or smaller
  • Requires buying a housing
  • Any flash images requires further gear

Compact cameras plus housings are glorious, intermediate-level underwater setups. They ship high-quality photos with out the added bulk and expense of a full-sized camera and housing. For instance, they don’t require totally different lens ports to use totally different lenses. You simply put the camera in a housing and also you’re prepared to go.

The Sony RX100 sequence are nice cameras for compact underwater images. Firms like Meikon, Seafrogs, and Fantasea provide many cheaper housings for small cameras like this. I like to recommend shopping for a housing with a water-detecting alarm to save your camera in case of a small leak.

underwater photographer and shark diver photographing a hammerhead shark with a compact underwater housing
Juggling sharks and a full sized rig can be an excessive amount of. This setup permits a shark whisperer to get top quality photographs with a comparatively small rig.

Interchangeable lens cameras in a housing


  • Highest picture high quality
  • Most superior controls
  • Full selection of lens lineups


  • Costly
  • Plenty of elements
  • Huge and hulking

For the very best picture high quality and potential, an underwater housing to your DSLR or mirrorless camera is the very best wager. Due to the interchangeable lens nature of those cameras, it turns into a bit extra advanced. You want to purchase each a housing and dome port that’s appropriate along with your lens. For instance, a macro lens requires a unique port than a wide-angle lens. This data might be discovered utilizing a port chart offered by the housing manufacture.

Lighting gear like strobes usually want to be related electronically and are costlier. These full sized rigs are significantly extra cumbersome than the compact camera + housing setups.

Underwater housings are hard to handle underwater because they are big
DC-G9 + OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro @ 60mm, ISO 400, 1/800, f/2.8

As a facet observe, there’s one possibility in between. If you need higher picture high quality than a 1-inch sort sensor however don’t need to take care of the complexities of a giant mirrorless or DSLR housing, you can see a number of smaller choices on the market. As an example, some firms have extra compact housings with fixed-lens ports for very small mirrorless cameras, just like the Sony a6X00 sequence or Micro 4 Thirds cameras. This a well-liked center floor for photographers who desire a reasonably sized rig whereas nonetheless getting APS-C or M4/3 picture high quality.

Step 3: Search for methods to get monetary savings

After you’ve determined which stage of camera / housing you’re on the lookout for, there are nonetheless methods it can save you cash on underwater gear purchases. Listed below are a few of my suggestions.

Purchase used equipment

One factor I don’t suggest shopping for used is an underwater housing, for apparent causes. In the event you’re sending an costly camera setup underwater, you need to actually belief the housing.

Nonetheless, you may nonetheless save some huge cash in underwater images by shopping for sure gear used. My recommendation is to purchase used as long as the gear isn’t one thing that protects your camera from the water. In the event you comply with that rule, you could find some actually stable used gear at extremely low costs, particularly lighting gear like strobes and the attaching arms.

Purchase sensible

Though the most affordable housing selection could appear engaging, it not turns into the most affordable after it leaks and also you want to purchase an entire new camera.

Discover bundle offers

One other manner to save is to purchase a complete rig offered as a package. There are some good camera+housing+arms+strobes offers on the market which are cheaper than shopping for the elements individually.

Moreover, It’s not unusual for individuals to put up their total rig on the market second-hand. In the event you’re prepared to ignore my recommendation on shopping for a second-hand housing, you could find some superb offers (particularly as a result of so many individuals are afraid to threat it, pushing the costs artificially low). I can see the tradeoff being worthwhile if you happen to’re capturing with an older camera that may be cheaply changed if/when the seals on the housing break.

You don’t want to begin with all of the lights

The important thing a part of an underwater package is to get the housing and one lens port. You’ll be able to work your manner up from there, including lighting gear and extra lens ports as your finances permits.

Strobes significantly enhance the extent of underwater images, however all shouldn’t be misplaced with out them. By specializing in composition, discovering good distinction, working in clear/shallow water, and enhancing your pictures rigorously, it’s superb how good a naturally-lit underwater picture can look.

gorgonian fans in california giant kelpforest taken with an underwater housing and no strobes
DC-G9 + LEICA DG SUMMILUX 9mm F1.7 @ 9mm, ISO 200, 1/200, f/5.6; no flash. Strobes will not be all the time vital if you happen to pay shut consideration to discovering distinction and good composition.

Step 4: Assemble your underwater wardrobe

Digital camera gear shouldn’t be the one gear you want for underwater images. You additionally want some primary diving gear to preserve you comfy in the water. At a minimal, you want a masks and snorkel to see what you’re doing. Here’s a listing of the extra gear that’s vital for underwater images:

  • Masks and snorkel
  • Fins
  • Wetsuit
  • Weight-belt

You want to be comfy in the water in order to do good underwater images. A masks and snorkel permits you to see and breathe simply. The fins permit you to swim with little effort and with out flailing your arms all over.

A wetsuit is essential to preserve you heat. Even if you happen to can endure by way of chilly water, doing images whereas chilly is considerably more difficult than if you happen to can retain some physique warmth. Nonetheless, a wetsuit makes you tremendous buoyant. So as to make fast freedives to do images from extra attention-grabbing angles, you want a weight belt. In any other case, you’ll be too floaty to go down underwater.

Getting a SCUBA certification and equipment can be a good suggestion if you would like to develop into severe about underwater images. It’s a lot simpler than holding your breath, however is certainly not vital to start underwater images.

mask snorkel fins and wetsuit are important gear for underwater photography
DC-G9 + LEICA DG SUMMILUX 9mm F1.7 @ 9mm, ISO 400, 1/250, f/6.3

Step 5: Discover clear water

Select our bodies of water with good visibility and minimal currents. The very best gear gained’t do something for you if the water is murky, whereas clear water can take even the most affordable underwater package to spectacular ranges. Listed below are some ideas for locating clear water:

  • Ask a neighborhood dive store the place the very best diving or snorkeling is
  • Time your shoot for days with low turbidity
  • Discover calm our bodies of water

It’s best to go to locations with clear water if you happen to be a part of a dive journey. If not going with a gaggle, it’s up to you to discover good water.

Within the ocean you need to go to a spot recognized for having first rate visibility. Asking a dive store (or Googling good snorkeling areas close by) is an efficient manner to begin. From there you want to go on a day with low wind and surf or else the water will likely be turbid.  This may be decided utilizing a surf forecast. Moreover, the water is often clearer throughout excessive tide. Timing your snorkel proper is essential.

Springs are one other glorious supply of clear water implausible for underwater images. As soon as you discover clear water, don’t muck it up by stirring up the underside! Preserve your physique actions to a minimal.

Manatee in a florida spring photo taken with the panasonic g9 in an ikelite underwater housing
DC-G9 + LEICA DG SUMMILUX 9mm F1.7 @ 9mm, ISO 250, 1/2500, f/2.5

Step 6: Familiarize your self along with your gear

Earlier than diving into full-fledged underwater images periods, spend time getting acquainted along with your gear in a managed setting like a swimming pool. Familiarize your self with camera settings, controls, and underwater housing features to optimize your capturing expertise underwater.

Additionally it is essential to get comfy in your snorkelling/freedive/scuba gear. All of your gear ought to match properly, preserve you heat, and be correctly weighted. You don’t need to sink too quick or float an excessive amount of.

underwater photographer swimming through kelp
DC-G9 + LEICA DG SUMMILUX 9mm F1.7 @ 9mm, ISO 1600, 1/200, f/7.1

Step 7: Keep in mind the principles of images

Hurray, we’re lastly prepared to do some actual underwater images! Due to the difficult setting underwater, it’s simple to overlook the essential guidelines of images and are available again with unsatisfying photos, main you to disillusionment with the interest. The very best recommendation is to take the identical rules you’re used to following in images out of the water – underwater.

  • Discover contrasty mild and topics
  • Pay shut consideration to composition
  • Dive down to discover extra attention-grabbing angles
  • Observe a histogram to get the appropriate publicity
  • Get as shut to your underwater topics as potential to enhance the colours

Underwater images places your images abilities to the take a look at. It’s fast-paced and extremely dependent upon the course you shoot. Add in strobes, and also you want to be a grasp of synthetic mild as properly. The thrilling factor is that you will note your underwater abilities steadily enhance, and the outcomes are nearly magical if you do every part proper. Actually, probably the most “costly” mistake you can also make in underwater images is to hand over the interest too early after which promote your gear at an enormous loss. It takes effort and time to study, and your early outcomes in all probability gained’t be nice, however it’s one thing you’ll enhance over time.

california giant kelpforest catalina island
DC-G9 + LEICA DG SUMMILUX 9mm F1.7 @ 9mm, ISO 200, 1/100, f/11.0

Step 8: Enhance your photos by capturing in RAW and post-processing

It’s completely essential to shoot in RAW underwater. RAW information retain essential picture knowledge, permitting for intensive post-processing changes. Water reduces distinction and removes crimson tones nearly totally, so important colour grading and enhancing is critical for a pleasant closing product.

Adobe software program is nice, although Affinity picture is cheaper, and I’ve discovered it to be glorious for enhancing underwater uncooked information. There are additionally free choices like Darktable and lots of others.

The particular software program isn’t so essential, however don’t skip the enhancing course of. Even the very best underwater pictures you’ve seen in all probability began out bland due to the properties of water. I really wrote an entire article particularly about how to edit underwater photos if you happen to haven’t seen it already. However just like the earlier tip, don’t hand over underwater images in case your pictures look boring out-of-camera! That’s simply how they’ll look.

it is important to edit underwater photosEditting an underwater photo of a Giant Black Sea Bass in a kelp forest

Step 9: Strive new strategies and watch your abilities enhance

There’s a steep studying curve when starting underwater images. It could be discouraging at first due to the problem, however I promise good outcomes will come as you get comfy in the water and the brand new gear.

At all times attempt new strategies, particularly with lighting. There’s a lot to study underwater images, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable.


Going underwater for images is, indisputably, one of many boldest issues a photographer can do. I hope these steps make that transition simpler, with out losing you cash alongside the best way. Underwater images doesn’t require the most costly gear and SCUBA certifications. What’s key’s being comfy in the water, training good photographic method, and sticking to it. The outcomes will likely be value it in the tip!

gorgonian fans in california giant kelpforest taken with an underwater housing and strobes
DC-G9 + LEICA DG SUMMILUX 9mm F1.7 @ 9mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/7.1, Ikelite DS161 strobes

#Started #Underwater #Photography #Wasting #Money

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