Underwater Photography & Videography: 9 Tips on How to Take Amazing Underwater Photos and Videos

February 21, 2023 6 min read

Underwater photography and videography can be a rewarding experience, allowing you to capture stunning visuals in an aquatic environment. Whether you’re looking to take photos or videos while snorkeling, scuba diving, or swimming in the pool, there are many ways to capture the beauty of your experience. Here's Movo’s comprehensive guide to taking amazing underwater photos and videos!

1. Adjust the Environment 

As is with most situations, knowing the environment in which you shoot underwater matters when creating the image that you want. There are different underwater environments that require different approach;
  • Ocean - The most massive body of water carries with it different kinds of environments, marine life, and levels of intensity. While diving in the ocean, safety is the most key principle. You have to be aware of your surroundings, the pressure levels, waves, weather and marine predators. Because  the ocean is so vast, knowing where to dive for cool shots can be tricky and it’s important to do your research before going into this environment.  
  • River - Not all rivers are divable, but with the ones that are it’s important to keep in mind the speed and direction of the currents, as well as being aware of rocks and shallow ground. Fresh water has a different quality to it than saltwater, so your approach to camera settings and lighting should be different to the ocean. 
  • Lake - Lakes are like smaller oceans, except with less marine life and diversity. Some lakes can be murky and muddy, while others can be crystal clear and simple to shoot in. Again, a bit of research can help you know where to go!
  • Pool - The safest underwater option as it is manmade and contains no marine life, no waves, no pressure. Usually, pool water will be clear and easier to shoot in especially if there is tons of natural light.

Remember that the water refracts images, so try to capture your subject one to two feet above your camera by shooting upwards! 

2. Take Weather Conditions in Consideration 

Just like the environment, weather conditions can alter your shooting experience and results underwater. Here are some ways in which weather can affect underwater environments:

  • The available natural light you have throughout the day is significant to the quality of your image and the overall feel of your piece. A sunny day vs a cloudy day affects how much natural light you will have underwater just as well as day vs night. 
  • Windy and rainy days can create choppy waters that could alter the quality of your image. 
  • Diving in weather conditions stronger than a rainy day can be a safety hazard and is not advised to untrained divers. If you do dive to stormy weather, the light conditions under the water will be significantly affected and will create an unclear image. 
  • Depending on the area where you shoot, sometimes the waters can be muggy after a storm or rainy day. 

3. Practice Your Scuba Diving Skills

With any craft it’s important to practice your skill in order to get better. When it comes to underwater photo and video, one of the biggest factors is your diving skills.

Aside from safety concerns, being a skilled diver also means being able to stay under the water longer, being able to dive deeper and being able to execute maneuvers in order to get the perfect shot. The quality of your final product will also be better if your diving is on point. You don’t want to have to worry about other logistics when you’re trying to focus on the right shot.
Staying still is a very important aspect of photo and videography, and is significantly harder to do under water. 
The more you dive, the more you also learn about the underwater environment, life and conditions that could help you create the type of photos and videos that you want. You will also become more familiar with your personal diving limits and will know what is most safe and comfortable for you.

4. Choose the best Camera and Additional Equipment for Underwater Shoots

Before you can begin taking your underwater photos and videos, there are some essential pieces of equipment that you need to have in order to get the best results. This includes a waterproof camera or housing, as well as appropriate lenses for your camera and diving rigs. 

Most divers like to film with diving-compatible action cameras such as GoPro or DJI. Those are good options for professional divers, but can be quite pricey! If you are just starting out and would like a cheaper option, we recommend the Akaso EK7000.

When it comes to housing, Aquatech and Fantasea have a number of choices that are professional quality and will not break the bank such as higher-standard brands like Ikelite and Sea&Sea. There are many options to choose from whether you are using an action cam or just your standard iPhone. 
Lenses are readily available for your underwater adventure from brands such as B&H and even Nikon. The type of lens you get heavily depends on the feeling you are trying to express, so it’s always good to have a variety of lenses you can switch out and use. Make sure to have a wide lens as well as a close-up lens. Another good one to have in your arsenal is the fisheye lens. 
As fordiving rigs, Movo has a few amazing options! You can also choose to already have a lighting setup on your rig to make your setup purchase a lot easier.

Whichever pieces of equipment you end up choosing, it’s important that the equipment you end up with is comfortable for you to use underwater. 

5. Pay Attention to Lighting 

Light is probably the most important aspect of underwater photography and videography that you must keep in mind. Understanding how light physically works underwater is crucial in order to compose legible images, let alone stunning ones. When it comes to working with light control in an aquatic environment, one of the most useful techniques is to use strobe lighting, which can be set up to capture both the foreground and background of a scene. 

  • While using one strobe provides decent results, using multiple can put you at an advantage. 
  • For your photos to feel more realistic and pleasant, you might want to keep your strobes above your camera lens. 
  • Keep your strobes pointed forward.
  • Be mindful of your distance; the wider the angle, the harder it will be to take a quality shot with strobes.

6. Modify Camera and Other Equipment Settings 

You must familiarize yourself with your equipment before taking the dive.

Make sure you know your camera’s white balance functions. If you have your own lights and want to shoot macro, most cameras allow you to keep an auto setting for white balance, but we advise that you adjust it manually. To adjust your white balance, point your camera at something white (or white enough) and adjust the WB settings according to your camera’s instructions. 
Make sure that your lights, rig and camera are all adjusted to what’s comfortable to you and will help you get the best shot you can get. 

7. Regulate the Shutter Speed

When it comes to capturing unique shots in an aquatic environment, there’s a special technique that will put you at an advantage. The trick is to use aslow shutter speed, which will blur movement and create an ethereal effect with the light rays in the water. This is especially useful when capturing moving subjects such as divers and marine wildlife, and we guarantee the shots will blow you away!

8. Use Post-Processing for Best Results

As is the case in regular photo and video work, post-processing is a big part of making your work look good. Here are some ways you can enhance your underwater creations in post; 

  • Adjust brightness and contrast.
  • Color correction. 
  • Crop out unwanted elements. 
  • Adjust gain and noise. 
  • Add effects that will enhance the vibe of your piece.  
Here is the software that we recommend to try out for editing: 
  • Adobe (Photoshop and Lightroom)
  • Affinity Photo
  • Darkroom
  • Canva
  • Capture One Pro
  • Pixelmatro Photo

9. Practice Makes Perfect!

Underwater photography can be tricky, so just like practicing your diving, it’s important to practice your skills with the camera. There’s a lot of factors for the best results such as;

  • Steady hand holding. 
  • Adjusting camera settings appropriately in any situation. 
  • Having an eye for a good shot. 
  • Confidence in your shot. 
  • Composing on the go.
  • Being able to follow the action. 

Final Thoughts

With the rightequipment and knowledge of how to adjust settings for best results, use light control techniques, and capture unique shots that stand out from the rest, you’ll have all the tools necessary to create amazing photos and videos underwater! Whether you choose to snorkel or scuba dive into this fascinating world beneath the surface of the water – your pictures will tell stories that are sure to leave an impression on everyone who sees them. So what are you waiting for? It's time to explore the depths of underwater photography!