15 Tips for the Best Underwater Photos Ever

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

While we love taking photos on land, and sometimes high up in the sky, we can’t resist the magic that takes place underwater.

Real life Nemos, free floating props, and fashionable mermaids show us that underwater is the place to be!

Get a camera that can work in a (extremely) wet environment, and dive in to capture and
conquer the wonders of the water world.

Here‘s our top 15 list of uh-mazingly easy tips to get your feet wet in underwater photography.

15 Ultimate Underwater Photography Tips

p.s. Work with us! Photojojo’s hiring both in and outside of San Francisco. Seeking web developers, product buyers & sourcers, photographers, and writers.

Photos: Main + guitar by Sarah Lee; bubble close up by Sasha Leahovcenco

What To Shoot With Underwater

Underwater photography isn’t just for pros with ginormous budgets. Underwater cameras are actually really accessible!

You can find single-use disposable underwater cameras or better yet reusable ones like the Reusable Underwater Film Camera.

Digital underwater cameras are also great since you get to instantly see your photos.

You can always protect the DSLR you already own with an underwater housing system. These range from $80 upwards, but some camera shops rent these out. iPhone housing systems are also being made for underwater iPhoneography.

1. Shoot in Safe Waters

beforeA swimming pool is a great place to spend hours with your camera, because there aren’t any
unpredictable, strong under currents or aggressive marinelife with sharp teeth to worry about.

When you plunge into the ocean, lakes, and rivers just remember to always be aware of your surroundings and the limit to your swimming abilties.

2. Have Enough Light

beforeThe best time to shoot underwater are on bright afternoons when sunlight travels intensely and aplenty in the water.

When conditions aren’t in your favor (and you’re swimming in deep, gloomy waters) use flash or artificial light to bring out colors and take away shadows.

If your camera doesn’t have built-in flash or your built-in flash isn’t strong enough, use an external flash or bring in an underwater strobe. These are pretty affordable to rent at around $40.

To avoid illuminating particles between you and the subject (known as backscatter which shows up as white spots) position your external flash at an angle towards the lens.

3. Stay at the Surface

beforeSometimes the coolest water effects are found right at the top.

Play with sunbeams, surface reflections, and backlit texture.

You can also split your frame in half by revealing half of the world below water and half of it above.

4. Get Close

beforeCloseness may be something we’re uncomfortable with on land, but those boundaries blur when we’re in the water.

Getting in close to your subject gives you crazy-awesome details like when you’re photographing endangered water species or the slimy threads of backlit algae. If you’re able to get your hands on a DSLR casing, try experimenting with macro lenses.

When you’re not shooting with a macro lens, practice composition by filling in your entire frame with your underwater subjects.

5. Get Acrobatic

beforeOne of the best things about being underwater is floating. It’s as if we’re defying gravity.

The next time you dive in, set your camera to a high shutter speed and have your friends tumble in after you while you wait below them with your camera. You’ll catch them mid-dive in unexpected positions that end up looking like an aquatic ballet.

6. Make Bubbles

before Bubbles are a great way to create interest in a photo, and also a fun excuse to splash water in your friend’s face.

Experiment with hard plastic straws or water guns, too!

7. Bring in Props

beforeCommon swimming pool toys are fun and all, but household items like books, an umbrella, or even a bicycle seem more fitting (or not) underwater.

Elena Kalis is a great example of a photographer using props to create whimsical and stunning portraits.


beforeDiscuss your plan and have your subject practice first above water and then one or two times below water.

It’s less tiring for everyone, especially since holding your breath and doggy paddling is involved!

9. Wear light clothing

before If you’re photographing others in costume, make sure to keep in mind that when clothes are wet, they make it harder to swim.

Clothes that we’ve found to be most swim friendly are nightgowns, leggings, sundresses, shirt, ties, and spandex.

Hint: The tighter the clothing the less resistance you’ll have to move freely underwater.

10. Shoot Up or Across

beforeMost of the time we’re photographing water, we shoot from above down into the water. Being underwater lets you get as low as you want to dive!

This lets you shoot up at your subject or directly across from it.

When you shoot upwards you can even catch awesome backlighting (yay sunbeams!).

5 More Too-Amazing Ideas

  • Shoot in the rain. Grab your cam for a rainstorm to get those double-dare-you-to-jump-in-that-huge-puddle shots.
  • Have a pool party. Invite your friends over and take the pool party to another level!
  • Waterslide portraits! The next time you’re going down a twisty waterslide, shoot a self portrait (old school style, at an arm’s length away) or wait at the bottom and catch your friends’ funny faces.
  • Take a shower! Use a shower curtain as a backdrop, and you’ve got an indoor rainstorm photobooth. Or simply set up a home studio in your bath tub for water play shots, like high speed exploding water balloons.
  • Tag along with a surfer (or any other water athlete!) to get photos of them riding waves.

Photo credit: 1 Jen May Pastores, 2 Marina Miller, 3, 5, 7, and 9 Sarah Lee, 4 Sasha Leahovcenco, 8 Kitfox Valentin, 10 Anna Kim, Surfer by Aaron Rideout