Underwater Photography 101

Maybe you too are itching to know a bit more about the world of underwater photography, what steps are needed to start filming underwater, what diving course? What camera? And where do you start …?! In this article I hope to answer some of the questions I get on this subject.

A brief introduction

In the past, underwater photography equipment was owned only by the rich, or by those who succeeded with luck (and a lot of talent) to work someplace that was willing to buy the equipment for them. Underwater photography in this pre-digital analog era was a real challenge when you only had 36 chances, or 72 with cameras that shot on a half frame, to take the picture of your life, or at least a reasonable one. Fortunately for us, we now live in the digital era and the possibilities for self-learning, constant improvement, and mid-dive corrections are available to everyone. In this era when the sky is the limit, all the information is out there online and in written literature.

Camera manufacturers in recent years understand the potential of the underwater photography market and you can now find compact and inexpensive cameras suitable for photography at depths of up to 3-10 meters without the use underwater camera housing. With the addition of an extra package you can dive with the cameras to a depth of 30 meters or more (depending on the housing). These cameras do not produce impressive results as easily as above water but they certainly make the photographic experience of situations that were until recently, not accessible to photography, open to a wide audience and amateur photographers. A photograph of your child in his first swimming lessons in the pool or even the lack of concern for the camera on the beach should it fill up with sand, (you can rinse it in the tap when you return home) make these cameras a perfect choice for the family camera.

These cameras have many other drawbacks, which invalidate my view of real underwater photography, even though their size makes it possible to put them in your pocket easily. Yet, I would say that they are suitable for many others who want to take their first steps with underwater photography without considerable financial expense. The next ones offered to us today are compact cameras of all levels, provided that they have an underwater camera housing (original from the manufacturer of the camera or other company) that allows to dive with the camera to a depth of 30-40 meters and allows control over most of the camera controls or all.

Here the expense is already higher because the price of the package usually equals or exceeds the price of the camera and to get results “like the pros” we will have to invest a little more in external flash.

The truly expensive camera range includes digital reflex cameras: single lens reflex cameras and SLRs. These cameras are expensive compared to compact, clumsy and heavier, but thanks to a sensor area significantly larger than in the compact cameras, they can achieve good results in terms of image quality and print quality.

Each camera group has its own advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a camera, we need to use the relevant considerations at the time of acquisition and try to predict what our desires will be to evolve with the field. All this is in order to adapt to the most appropriate system that will enable us to reach where we want and on the other hand will not cause us many frustrations when we do not achieve what we planned from the equipment.

Therefore, the limitations of the equipment must be recognized.

Diving course

A diving license is the first obstacle to be removed from the way, and this is also the only skill that really requires proper certification. However, a dive course alone will not be enough to be an underwater photographer, let alone a successful underwater photographer … After we have purchased the diving certificate, we have obtain with a lot of time and experience, the skills of diving. One of the most important elements in photography while diving is the ability to integrate into nature. To not disturb, just observe. The photographer must be able to approach a particular object without threatening or intimidating him, and to have a balance near perfect under water so as not to harm himself or the nature around him. Since water is not our natural environment this is not a simple task for many of us … but with enough will, perseverance and experience – most divers can maneuver in water quite impressively.

Another thing to consider is at least basic knowledge of photography. Every simple task over water, becomes cumbersome and hard under water, therefore, the underwater photographer must have basic knowledge of photography and familiarity with the photographic equipment in his possession. Understanding basic terms would be a good step for underwater photography. Understanding the factors affecting exposure and depth of field, working with flash and familiarity with the rules of thumb for building different compositions, are important for successful and high-quality photography. In photography as in any field, if the results are not good over time, this may cause the diver to begin leaving the field very quickly and therefore it is important to access it correctly. Luckily, photography is taught above water and therefore can be practiced more comfortably, and in a dry fashion…

And now, a camera and an underwater camera housing …

The requirements to start diving are an underwater camera and camera housing. Many cameras on the market offer an underwater case as an accessory. Before making the purchase, make sure that the camera we selected has a suitable case. These packages are usually reliable and sufficient for the limits of 30 meter competitive diving. All the cameras that allow manual control over the exposure from one of the leading companies will do the trick. Some of the cameras have a specific package from the company itself, while others have housings made by a different company which specializes in such products. The latter (of companies that specialize in the manufacturing) are more expensive, but are also considered to be better mainly because they give mounting options for peripherals such as external flash and wet lenses. Their advantage and disadvantage is usually that they are more massive.

Peripherals such as flashlights, lenses and filters can significantly improve the quality of photography but should be carefully selected. A good external flash and arm may cost close to the price of the camera itself. Wide lenses or macro lenses and filters are also quite popular and we should understand the nature of underwater photography and its objects in order to choose the most suitable lenses. In order to choose the right camera for you and receive advice on the subject, you can contact Dugit’s photography department, which is currently being held by the underwater photographer – Yahav Esh, and who import underwater photography equipment (other than SLR cameras) for any purpose.

We finished a diving course, we bought a camera … where do we photograph?

Come on … this is a question that is more suitable for Europeans who live in a country without a sea or where the summer water temperature reaches 10 degrees Celsius ….


Fortunately, we can go diving in the Red Sea which has a lot of locations which are considered desirable for photography causing photographers from all over the world come here to dive and photograph and even participate in prestigious photography competitions. If you want to dive in places really equal – cross the border in the direction of Sinai and reach the most sought out sites in the world!

Diving clubs such as Octopus – the Reef Group, organize dive safaris in a number of selected sites and for an affordable price you can spend a week indulging in a yacht, full of spectacular clarity, good food and an unforgettable experience. This is without doubt a paradise for photographers. Recently, diving trips have been planned specifically for underwater photographers to catering to their every need.

In conclusion

We must master diving before we start shooting underwater. The most suitable equipment for photography should be chosen according to style and needs and the most expensive camera is not necessarily the smartest choice. We must remember that the underwater nature is fragile (literally) and that we, as photographers, come with tremendous potential for destruction to the environment because we (a) approach the reef to obtain a better angle for the image and (b) are immersed in the camera’s viewfinder.

Therefore, we have a great responsibility as those who take it upon themselves to document and bring the unique and magical sights that are underwater to those who are not accustomed to them.

I hope this article sheds light on a number of dark spots in underwater photography and that it helped you make the right decision for you.