The Ultimate Guide
Everything you need to know to improve your underwater photo and video.
Articles & Diagrams
Bookmark this page as a starting point in your journey to learn how to capture pro-level photos and videos underwater with any camera.
Each chapter below includes sections that link to dedicated pages with even more detailed information and video tutorials on each topic presented.
My theory on photo instruction is that divers can create great images with any camera and any gear upon learning the fundamentals of photography.
This theory comes from working with hundreds of divers during photo workshops at dive destinations around the world, plus years of editing articles and images from many top pro underwater photographers.
Click the blue subchapters below
1 – Underwater Camera Equipment
2 – Underwater Photo Basics
3 – Macro Photography
- Macro Basics
- Macro Gear
- Macro Composition
- Macro Accessories
- Unusual Macro Photo Tips
- Advanced Macro Photography
4 – Wide-Angle Photography
- Wide-Angle Basics
- Wide-Angle Gear
- Wide-Angle Composition
- Advanced Wide-Angle Photography
- Close Focus, Sunbursts, Split Shots, Ambient Light, Slow Shutter, Fast Subjects, Unusual Wide-Angle Photo Tips
5 – Underwater Lighting
- Strobes vs. Constant Light
- Photo & Video on the Same Dive
- Strobe & Light Positioning
- Minimize Backscatter
- Black Backgrounds
- 2023 Strobe Comparison
- 2023 Light Comparison
6 – Editing Tools & Post-Processing
- Speed Up Your Lightroom Workflow
- How to Create a Custom Watermark
- Using & Creating Develop Presets
- Using Collections to Stay Organized
- Additional Lightroom Tips
7 – Underwater Video
8 – Smart Phone Housings
9 – GoPro and Action Cameras
10 – Advanced Underwater Photography
- 3 Secrets of Pro UW Photographers
- Packing Your Camera Gear
- Back Button Focus
- Portrait Tips
- The Best Fish ID Books
Intimidated? Don’t be. Let’s schedule a 1-on-1 virtual lesson.
Underwater Camera Equipment
Starting underwater photography can be very intimidating, especially when trying to learn exactly what gear you need. There are cameras, housings, ports, cables, diopters, lights, strobes, clamps, alarms and so much more.
But do you need all that?
No. You should look at purchasing a system (new or used) that will match your photo goals and budget. I’m always available to answer your Camera Questions.
Let’s take a look at the basic gear you might need for underwater photography.
How to Choose an Underwater Camera
Finding the right camera gear takes some research and conversations with experts, but it helps to help narrow down your search before you get to that stage.
In my video tutorial linked below you’ll find the questions I ask every diver interested in purchasing their first camera system. Watch the video. Read the questions. You’ll be ready to start doing your research!
How to Choose an Underwater Camera
Cameras for Underwater Photography
There are many choices when it comes to cameras. All of them, even the few that are waterproof in shallow water, will need an underwater housing in order to use at deeper depths while freediving and scuba diving.
We can break the cameras into four main categories based on the size of their image sensor. Gone are the days of “mirrorless vs. DSLR.”
1″ Sensor Cameras
These cameras are compact in size (sometimes called point and shoot) and have a built-in lens. They’re cheaper than interchangeable lens cameras and shoot fantastic photos. In fact, many compact camera shooters are producing better images than those with prosumer camera rigs.
That said, there will be limitations in image quality, autofocus capabilities, low light performance and other areas. This is a factor of the sensor size, firmware, and processing power – not simply the megapixel count.
Compact cameras with a 1″ sensor are a great way to get into underwater photography. The underwater housings are compatible with a number of wet lenses, allowing you to shoot true macro and wide-angle.
Micro 4/3 Sensor Cameras
Micro 4/3 sensors are most common in Olympus and Panasonic cameras. All these cameras use interchangeable lenses that are small and lightweight. This is a huge benefit for divers who want to travel with a camera rig that balances size and weight vs. image quality.
Crop Sensor Cameras
These cameras include both SLR and mirrorless bodies and most often use a 1.6x crop factor (from a traditional full frame sensor). Crop sensor cameras range from entry level all the way to pro. In fact, most underwater photo pros use prosumer crop sensor cameras instead of flagship pro camera bodies.
Crop sensor cameras have lighting-fast autofocus, great image quality and lens selection that allows you to shoot everything underwater.
These cameras are a great choice for most serious photographers, including new photographers who know that they’ll be committed to the hobby.
The great thing is that as you build a lens and port collection, everything except the camera and housing bodies themselves can continually be transferred as you update cameras through the years, adding a little more value to your investment.
Full Frame Sensor Cameras
Full frame cameras range from entry level all the way to top pro. The difference here is the sensor size, modeled after traditional 35mm film.
Because the sensor is larger than those in the cameras discussed above, these cameras can record a wider range of exposure within a scene (dynamic range). They also deliver higher quality images in low light situations where a high ISO is required, and produce shallower depth of field than a crop or micro 4/3 sensor.
SmartPhones and GoPros
Many divers are looking for simplicity and systems that are easy to carry and travel with. This article contains detailed sections Smartphone Housings and for GoPros.
Housings for Underwater Photography
Underwater housings allow you to use your camera underwater with access to nearly all buttons and functionality. This precision engineering and the compatibility with accessories listed below is why they are so expensive!
Unfortunately, each housing will only fit the camera it is designed for. While there are some exceptions, you will almost always need to find the housing built specifically for your camera.
Housings fall into several distinct price points. While more affordable housings offer great value so that you can start shooting, the more expensive housings improve ergonomics, buoyancy characteristics, accessory compatibility, optics and more.
Once you find several housings at the same price level, the decision between them becomes very subjective and personal. In this situation my advise is always to try and visit your local underwater camera retailer to put hands on the gear. You can also see housings in person at dive tradeshows.
Do You Need More than a Housing to Start Shooting Underwater?
Yes. Don’t forget to budget for essential and extra accessories! Keep reading.
Compact Camera Housings
Generally you can pop your compact camera into your housing and start shooting underwater. No other accessories required. Nice!
Once you get comfortable with this, it’s time to start looking at accessories that will really start improving your imagery. This includes a tray and handle system, a video light and or strobe(s) and wet lenses for macro and wide-angle.
Interchangeable Lens Camera Housings
These housings require a bit more before you can take them in the water, primarily because of the interchangeable lenses of the cameras.
These housings require adding a lens port in order to be water-tight. Ports and port extensions are designed specifically for each lens you’ll use with your camera, which is why they’re sold separately. This means that you’ll need to determine which lens (or lenses) you’ll be shooting with before purchasing your housing port(s) and port extensions.
The underwater housing manufacturers have detailed port charts that make it easy to see what you need for various lenses. The nice thing is that macro ports are fairly universal, and dome ports can work with a variety of lenses provided you have the appropriate port extensions.
In addition, if you plan to purchase a strobe or flash, you’ll need a TTL Converter or TTL trigger and a fiber optic cable (or sync cord) to trigger the strobe. Then you’ll need clamps and arm segments in order to hold the light. Oh, and the flash itself!
Lenses for Underwater Photography
We prefer different lenses underwater that you might use for regular topside photography.
There are two reasons for this. First, we often shoot macro underwater, which requires a 1:1 macro lens with very short minimum focus distance. These lenses often don’t make it into the land camera photo bag.
Second, there is less visibility in water than in air, so we opt for lenses with a very wide field of view that allow us to get very close to the subject while still keeping the entire subject within the frame.
The term “wide-angle” underwater incorporates all big subjects and scenes, regardless of the specific (wide field of view) lens you’re using.
Fisheye lenses are the most popular option for wide scenes, since they allow you to focus extremely close to the subject while offering an incredibly wide perspective. The lens barrel distortion often isn’t noticed underwater.
Rectilinear wide-angle lenses would be the second wide-angle lens in most shooters’ camera bags, generally used for subjects a bit farther away like sharks and whales.
Compact camera shooters don’t need to worry about this, since the lens is built in. That said, check out the Wet Lenses section below once it’s time to start getting specialized angles and perspectives.
What Lens Should You Get?
Traditionally, divers purchasing an interchangeable lens camera will purchase a macro lens and a fisheye lens. Bam, easy.
And if you only plan to free dive with whales, you certainly don’t need a macro lens (or any lighting).
But these days it’s a bit more complicated. Let’s talk about Water Contact Optics, which I differentiate from regular Wet Lenses.
Water Contact Optics
The last few years have seen some incredible new wide-angle water contact lenses that deliver incredible image quality. So what are these and why do they matter?
Choosing one of these wide-angle conversion lenses will affect the lenses you purchase in the section above. Instead of buying a dedicated macro lens, macro port, wide lens, and dome port with extensions, you can simply purchase one fixed focal length lens, one flat port and then one of these water contact lenses.
Pros: You can switch between wide-angle and macro on the same dive, instead of committing to a lens/port combo on the surface. (Note: compact camera shooters using wet lenses (see below) always have the ability to switch underwater). Image quality of the top wide-angle conversion lenses are arguably better than many wide lens and port combos.
Cons: These pro level wide-angle water contact lenses are EXPENSIVE! They’re also heavy. Additionally, they’re not ideal for shooting split-shots.
So do you choose traditional lenses and ports or a pro-level water contact lens setup? Talk to your local underwater camera expert or shoot me an email.
I differentiate Wet Lenses from the pro water contact optics above because most wet lenses are very affordable and produce excellent results, especially for compact camera shooters.
What do Wet Lenses Do?
Wet Lenses allow you to change the field of view of the compact camera’s built-in lens.
There are two types of wet lenses: Macro Diopters and Wide-Angle Wet Lenses. Most of these lenses feature 67mm threads on the back, making them universal and interchangeable with the various housing models and brands.
Macro Diopters are basically magnifying glasses for your camera lens. They allow you to focus very close to small subjects while also magnifying them.
Watch my complete video and read the tutorial on wet lenses:
Underwater Lighting Basics
Lighting makes all the difference in your underwater photography.
Chapter 5 will discuss all aspects of lighting in full detail, but at a top level it’s important to know that adding artificial light to your camera system, via a constant light or strobe, will add color, contrast and vibrance to your underwater photos.
It’s ok to get started shooting just ambient light with no artificial light (it’s certainly the cheapest option), but eventually you’ll want to start adding lighting to your system.
The exception here is for divers who are shooting subjects farther away, since artificial light only travels a max of about 2 meters (6ft) underwater. Think whales, shipwrecks, dolphins, etc. Freedivers also do not often use lights because of the drag created by the additional gear.
So yes, you can create amazing wide-angle images using solely ambient light, but you’ll want artificial light for anything within a few feet of the camera. Budget accordingly!
My Underwater Camera Gear
Curious what camera gear I’m using this year? Check out my gear video and companion article explaining why I use the gear I do.
Brent’s Underwater Camera Gear
Underwater Photo Basics
Learning the fundamentals of underwater photography is the first step in becoming a truly talented photographer.
Sure, you can memorize a few settings and snap away at marine life, and with today’s cameras capture some really nice images. But what happens when you need to troubleshoot lighting or want to create special effects?
The fundamentals in the tutorials below will get you well on your way to understanding everything about how to best use your gear to make the best images possible – photo and video.
Basic Camera Settings
I think of basic default settings as a starting point for creating every image and exposing every video clip.
Basic settings are also a great fallback when you’re tweaking settings, lighting, and other elements and just not getting the results you’re looking for. Instead of getting frustrated… Stop, breathe, and then set everything back to your default settings. From here you can start making adjustments again in an organized, methodical fashion.
Here’s my full video and written tutorial on basic camera settings.
Basic Underwater Camera Settings
All About Autofocus
Sharp focus is essential in creating excellent underwater photos. Our cameras today have powerful, accurate autofocus systems, however you still need to learn how your autofocus works in order to coach the camera to achieve sharp focus even in challenging situations. Combine this with the best autofocus settings and you’re ready to create contest-winning images.
My article and 14-minute video tutorial below discuss everything you need to know.
Autofocus for Underwater Photography
Exposure & Your Histogram
Exposure is critical to creating great underwater images. It can also be deceptively complicated as we blend ambient light with artificial light.
The one thing we know for certain is that the Histogram in your camera (and in Adobe Lightroom) will always be accurate in relaying exposure information. Because of this, I am constantly checking my histogram while composing new scenes to ensure I have the exposure spot-on.
There are additional benefits to achieving correct exposure in-camera that I outline in this video tutorial, along with tips and tricks for using your in-camera histogram.
Basic Composition Tips
Great composition is one of the easiest ways to improve your underwater photography with any camera.
For some people, composition comes organically, while for others there is much more study involved. Regardless, there are some basic composition rules that all underwater photographers and videographers should follow.
I always emphasize composition (as well as settings and lighting) when reviewing guest images during workshops or virtual lessons.
This video tutorial and written article share my favorite tips.
Underwater macro photography is capturing images of the small subjects. The term serves as a name for a fairly broad underwater photo style that incorporates tightly framed subjects, true 1:1 macro and super macro images shot with diopters.
Let’s keep learning.
True macro photos are created when a subject appears on the image sensor at the same size as it appears in real life.
This is a 1:1 magnification ratio, achieved when using a macro lens capable of magnifying the scene while also permitting sharp focus very close to the front of the lens. The closest distance your camera lens can be to the subject while still being able to achieve focus (with autofocus these days) is known as a minimum focus distance.
So technically, shooting a fish portrait is not actually macro. But for our purposes underwater, for general settings advice, and when entering photo contests, we bundle all these images together as Macro.
Macro lenses are the obvious choice for macro shooting on interchangeable lens cameras. These dedicated macro lenses achieve true 1:1 macro underwater when used in a macro housing port.
Zoom lenses can also be used to shoot tightly framed photos of small subjects. Traditionally, most shooters would opt for a macro lens instead of a zoom lens, but in the last few years we’ve seen a new generation of water contact optics (see Lenses in Chapter 1) that make a single zoom lens plus a macro diopter a great choice for macro.
Which solution is right for you? Contact me or ask your local underwater camera retailer, as image quality and compatibility varies between each camera, lens and housing manufacturer.
Compact Cameras: Most compact cameras can focus at a close distance and capture detailed photos of small subjects, but you’ll often want to add a macro diopter to your system in order start shooting the really small subjects.
What is a Macro Diopter?
A diopter is a magnifying glass that is attached the the front of your underwater housing port to magnify small subjects.
Diopters also help reduce the minimum focus distance of your lens, allowing you to get closer to the subject, making the subject larger in the frame.
Most diopters feature 67mm threads that are compatible across housings and macro ports regardless of whether you have a compact, mirrorless or SLR system. This makes them a great investment since they last forever and can be used on all your upgraded camera systems.
Macro diopters can be added and removed underwater (see Wet Lenses in Chapter 1). Many compact camera housings have adapters that allow you to pop the diopter of your choice on and off the housing fairly easily.
Interchangeable lens housing macro ports feature 67mm threads that allow you to screw in the diopter, or better yet, screw in a flip adapter that lets you flip the diopter on and off with one finger. Again, watch my Wet Lenses video for more info on flip adapters.
Buyer’s Guide: The Best Diopters of 2023
I refer to focus lights as essential macro gear and not just a fun accessory. This is because the camera’s autofocus will perform best when the subject is well-lit (creating contrasts it uses to achieve focus).
Focus lights are often mounted on top of the housing to a cold-shoe mount via a ball mount connected to a clamp connected to the ball mount on the light.
Check out some of my favorite focus lights in the 2023 Light Buyer’s Guide.
If you’re shooting with a constant light (dive torch) instead of a strobe, then you don’t need a separate focus light since you already have a bright light on the subject. This applies to still photos or video.
Note on Etiquette: Bright lights are bright and certainly do disturb some marine life. Try to use your focus light sparingly and only when the camera is having trouble focusing. Powerful lights will also warm the water near your subject, which can disturb some marine life, especially eggs, so please don’t position lights very close to any sensitive subject.
Snoots, rings, filters and other toys coming soon!
In the meantime, check out these cool super macro flip adapters.
Unusual Macro Photo Tips
If you read enough underwater photo tutorials and articles, you’ll notice that the same advice is repeated over and over. And for good reason… these tips work! But let’s break away from the mainstream and look at what I hope are a few macro tips you’ve never heard.
Advanced Macro Photography
There are many talented divers today creating exceptional underwater macro photos. These divers are pushing creative lighting, shutter speeds, colors, bokeh, double exposures, and knowledge of unique behaviors to the limits… and it’s awesome.
I’m not diving into detailed advanced macro shooting in this guide in an effort to keep the curriculum streamlined and simple. We can always set up a Virtual Private Lesson or join one of my International or California photo workshops to really start taking your macro to the next level.
Underwater wide-angle photography encompasses anything that is not macro. This includes tightly framed images of larger subjects like turtles all the way beyond dive buddies to whales or reefs or wrecks.
Let’s keep learning.
I like to classify underwater wide-angle photography into two categories: standard and ambient light. The reason is because each style of shooting uses a different settings groups and different photo mentalities.
This style of wide-angle shooting is most common with scuba divers. The photographer uses one or more artificial lights (video lights or strobes/flashes) in order the light the foreground while letting ambient light expose the background.
While this sounds complicated, it’s actually very simply if you break it down into a 2-step process. I’ve outlined this in my Exposure and Your Histogram tutorial video (Chapter 2).
Learn all about the best wide-angle camera settings in my video and tutorial Best Underwater Camera Settings.
Ambient Light Photography Underwater
This style of wide-angle shooting is most popular with freedivers and anyone snorkeling instead of using SCUBA.
In ambient light photography we do not use any artificial lights. We rely exclusively on ambient sunlight to expose the scene and light the subject. There are several benefits here.
- Sometimes you don’t need strobes in very shallow water while snorkeling.
- Strobes and lights create a lot of extra drag, so oftentimes it’s best to streamline your gear while snorkeling and freediving.
- Our lights and flashes only reach about 6 feet (2m) through the water, so if the subject is farther away, then they won’t light subject but still create risk of backscatter (think of a shipwreck far away). Definitely don’t want to use them in this situation.
Check out my video tutorial and article below for an in-depth look at ambient light photography, best settings, and more.
There are four lens setups we generally use for wide-angle underwater photos and video: fisheye lenses, rectilinear wide-angle lenses, wet wide-angle lenses (for compact cameras) and a new generation of water contact wide-angle conversion lenses (for interchangeable lens cameras).
I discussed Wet Lenses and Water Contact Optics in the Lenses section of Chapter 1, so let’s review the traditional lenses here.
Have questions on these lenses? I can answer them!
Fisheye lenses have an extremely wide circular field of view. In fact, if you point your fisheye lens at anything with straight lines, you’ll notice that they warp around the edges of the frame into very bent lines.
Underwater photographers love these lenses because they allow you to get very close to your subject and still see the full scene (reef, wreck, etc.). They also focus at a very close distance. Fisheye lenses are usually the first lens a diver will purchase with their interchangeable lens camera for underwater use.
Rectilinear Wide-Angle Lenses
These lenses also have a wide field of view (not as wide as a fisheye), however they don’t distort the scene as much as a fisheye. Traditionally, these lenses are used for subjects that are farther away from the camera, like whales and some sharks.
Fun Fact: I use a rectilinear wide-angle lens almost exclusively for my diving off the northern California coast. The field of view allows much greater control of backscatter, and since I oftentimes put in hours of work before descending into unknown conditions, the ability to zoom from 16mm to 35mm allows me to capture photos even if visibility is 3ft (1m). Check out all my camera gear.
Let’s talk dome ports. And as I mentioned above, compact shooters will want to look at wet wide-angle lenses, while some with interchangeable lens cameras will want to look at the new generation of water contact optics. Learn about both of those in the Lenses section of Chapter 1.
If you’re still with me, you have either a fisheye lens or a rectilinear wide-angle lens. Both of these lenses will fit in the large dome ports. Each housing manufacturer will provide a port chart to tell you what extension ring(s) is required to use your lens with that particular dome.
The benefits of larger domes are that they often provide better optics than smaller domes, particularly when looking at image quality near the edge of the frame. Large dome ports make it much easier to capture split shots (over-unders) because there’s more surface area on the dome for the water to move over. Learn more in the Advanced Wide-Angle section below.
Fisheye lenses are often used in small 100mm domes known as mini-domes. These domes are fun to use because they’re extremely small. They’re streamlined for snorkeling and freediving, and also allow you to pull your strobes or lights in very close for close focus wide-angle shooting (see Advanced Wide-Angle for more).
Advanced Wide-Angle Photography
Close Focus Wide-Angle
Close focus wide-angle is one of the most common composition styles you’ll see in underwater photos. In these shots, the photographer gets extremely close to the foreground subject, making it very prominent in the frame.
The subject is crystal clear since the camera is so close with minimal water between the subject and camera. As we know, the farther we are from the subject, the less clear the image due to the particulate and other matter in the water.
Lighting is critical in close focus wide angle photos, and I review detailed instructions and tips in my Strobe Positioning tutorial video.
Sunbursts bring vibrant sunrays, light beams, and sunballs into your underwater photos. Learn all about them in my video tutorial below.
How to Shoot Underwater Sunbursts
Split Shots / Over Unders
Ambient Light Photography Underwater
In underwater photography we consider photos that don’t use artificial light from strobes or lights to be ambient light shots. This means you’re relying exclusively on ambient sunlight to light the scene.
Think freediving, shipwrecks, whales and dolphins. Learn all about ambient light photography and the gear required in my tutorial below.
Slow Shutter Speeds
One of the easiest ways to start adding creative underwater photos to your portfolio is through use of slow shutter speeds. A slow shutter speed with a moving subject (or still subject with intentional camera movement) creates motion blurs that are punctuated by a strobe flash that freezes an impression of the subject.
Learn how to create great slow shutter speed images in this video tutorial.
Using Slow Shutter Speeds Underwater
Fast subjects are just that – fast. Oftentimes they require different camera settings, autofocus settings, and even composition strategies. Watch this tutorial with my favorite tips for capturing great photos of quick marine life.
Unusual Wide-Angle Tips
If you read enough underwater photo tutorials, you’ll notice some themes naturally repeat themselves in every article. But I shake it up in this video,, focusing on a few tips I hope you’ve never heard before.
3 Unusual Wide-Angle Photo Tips
Adding artificial lighting from a strobe / flash or video light is a great way to improve your underwater photography.
In fact, I would say that lighting is arguably the second most important factor in creating great images. Of course, mastering your dive skills, including buoyancy for scuba divers, comes first. But after that, lighting and composition will deliver the best improvements in your photography with any camera.
Using a strobe or video light will bring vibrant colors and contrast back into your images as long as the subject is within about 6 feet (2m). This chapter in my guide to underwater photography will dive into all the details.
Strobes vs. Constant Light
Below is a video that discusses the difference between strobes (flashes) and video lights / dive torches (constant light). I also explain why you need light underwater to capture great photos and video.
Watch this video if you’re new to lighting underwater or if you’re building your first camera system, as we’ll guide you to getting the right gear for the marine life you intend to film.
Photo & Video on the Same Dive
Nearly all cameras allow divers to shoot both photo and video during the same dive. This can be as simple as shooting stills and then pressing the Red Record button to immediately start recording video.
The larger consideration is how to set up your camera rig. Do you bring strobes? Video lights? Both strobes and video lights? And what about shooting ambient light without any artificial light? This video will answer these questions while offering several tips.
Photo & Video on the Same Dive
Strobe & Light Positioning
Underwater strobe positioning is essential for proper subject exposure, capturing great color, adding depth through shadows, and eliminating pesky backscatter.
I’ve written a detailed article and video tutorial with strobe positions for wide-angle and macro shooting with one or two strobes. This 21 minute lesson includes a bunch of detailed diagrams showing exactly how to position your strobes, plus the theories on why you position them as indicated in each technique.
Note that I refer to this as strobe positioning, but that the exact same concepts apply for positioning video lights.
Watch & Read
3 Basic Tips for Positioning Strobes
How to Minimize Backscatter
Backscatter is a continuous nuisance for underwater image makers.
What is backscatter underwater?
Backscatter is the white spots in your image created by reflected light. These particles can be sand or organic particulate in the water lit by your strobes, lights or even the ambient sunlight.
Backscatter can easily ruin an image, whether it produces a snow globe effect on the sides of the frame or obscures crucial detail like a subject’s eye.
The good news is that once we understand how backscatter is created, we can learn how to eliminate or minimize it in-camera without any post-processing needed. Read the tips in this article.
How to Minimize Underwater Backscatter
How to Create Black Backgrounds
Black backgrounds are an effect used primarily in macro photography. The photo style is wildly popular underwater since it helps make small, camouflaged critters and marine life stand out from the background while making the colors POP.
Contrary to what your mind may tell you, black backgrounds can be created even in the middle of the day. The techniques are easy to apply, so let’s learn how to do that in this tutorial video and article.
How to Create Black Backgrounds
2023 Strobe Comparison & Buyer’s Guide
I’ve put together a detailed guide and comparison of most popular strobes on the market right now, including specs, pricing, opinions on which strobe is right for each shooter, and more.
Best Underwater Strobes of 2023
2023 Light Comparison & Buyer’s Guide
I’ve put together a comparison with some of my favorite video lights. There are many different brands and options out there, so hopefully the limited style of this guide helps you to decide on the best light for your system.
I’ve selected lights that are easy to use, offer high quality or great value, and various lumen (power) levels and price points. Check it out!
Editing & Post-Processing
Post-processing your images on the computer or your mobile phone is a critical part of photography workflow.
There are a number of free software solutions, like Dive +, which allow for quick mobile editing and color correction.
If you’re serious about your underwater photo hobby, then I highly recommend using Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom serves as a powerful catalog organization tool and robust editing platform. In other words, you can manage and edit all your images through Lightroom, then quickly find any image in months and years to come.
In the spirit of simplicity, I will not dive into the benefits and features of Lightroom here, but instead share some of my most popular video tutorials and articles.
Have Lightroom questions? Let’s set up a Virtual Photo Lesson!
Speed Up Your Lightroom Workflow
Lightroom is designed to help you streamline photo editing workflow, whether you’re a casual shooter or a pro. The end goal here is to save you time.
This video tutorial and article shares my tips and tricks for:
- File Organization
- Importing Images into Lightroom
- Exporting Images from Lightroom
- Lightroom Search Basics
- Bonus Tip for a Pro Workflow
Check it out!
Speed Up Your Lightroom Workflow
How to Create a Custom Watermark
Watermarks are important in underwater photography. They discourage others from stealing or misusing your images and they also serve as branding so your hard work is recognized.
During the film days and early digital years, trademarks and watermarks were frequently discussed in underwater photography, however with the boom in social media sharing, watermarks have become less important. Most shooters don’t even use them anymore!
Watermarks are still important, however, and this video tutorial plus companion article show you how to create your own watermarks in Lightroom. You’ll also learn how to quickly apply any of your watermarks when exporting images.
How to Create Custom Watermarks
Creating and Using Lightroom Presets
Presets are one of the fundamental time-saving features in Adobe Lightroom. You can set up metadata presets, develop presets, export presets and many more.
In one click, you can apply a preset to a batch of images, saving a huge amount of time for tasks that you repeat fairly often. I love presets!
Download my FREE LIGHTROOM DEVELOP PRESETS.
The tutorial video below focuses on Develop Presets, which apply a single or group of edits to your images in one click when importing your images into Lightroom or at any time during the editing process.
How to Create & Use Develop Presets
Using Collections to Stay Organized
Collections are a great way to organize images in Adobe Lightroom.
But let’s back up a step.
Everything you do in Lightroom is virtual and non-destructive to the original RAW file you’ve saved to your hard drive. So all your edits, metadata, versions of the same photo with different settings applied, etc. are all virtual and never affect the original image.
Taking this a step further, we can organize our images virtually, which also doesn’t affect the folder organization of our original RAW files. This means that you could have the same image of a nudibranch photographed in the Philippines in a nudibranch collection, Indo-Pacific collection, favorite photos collection, etc. – all at the same time. And you don’t have extra physical copies cluttering up your hard drive.
Learn how to use Lightroom collections in this video tutorial and article. You’ll be happy you did.
How to Use Lightroom Collections
Learn More about Lightroom
Keyboard Shortcuts in Lightroom
The 5 Best Lightroom Edits – Essential for any Photographer
Shooting video underwater follows most of the same fundamentals as still photography. And of course there are a number of settings and shooting tips to keep in mind to capture great video.
I’ll be expanding this section in coming months, but until then check out my tutorial on the basics of shooting underwater video.
These are basic settings and shooting tips to help get started in underwater video. Remember though, regardless your camera, you can always just push the red button to start recording video and your camera will do the rest!
Editing Underwater Video
There are several approaches to editing underwater video.
If your goal is to trim clips for quick upload to social media, then the native video software on your mobile phone or computer will do the trick.
For editing clips together into basic films, iMove and Windows Movie Maker are great free solutions. These programs are a great way to get started editing your videos since all the principles carry over into pro-level software. You can even add titles, graphics and other effects.
Personally, I tend to look past the free Davinci Resolve software and Final Cut, instead recommending Adobe Premiere Pro for those who want to get serious about video editing. While expensive at $20 usd per month, it’s really nice, intuitive video editing software.
Smart Phone Housings
How do Smart Phone Housings Work?
Smart phone housings allow you to take your mobile phone underwater to shoot photos and videos while snorkeling, free diving and scuba diving. These housings also work well on the surface to protect your phone from splashes and waves.
The popular smart phone housings today are designed to fit a wide range of phone sizes from various manufacturers. The housings feature physical buttons that are synced via bluetooth to the manufacturer’s app you have open on your phone.
Most smart phone housings also feature vacuum leak detection systems and even moisture detection systems, so you can rest assured that with careful o-ring maintenance and use of the alarms, you run near zero risk of flooding your phone.
Want to learn more? Check out my complete article covering smart phone housing compatibility, image quality, vacuum and leak detection, lighting and more.
Smartphone Housings vs. GoPro
Today there are a variety of smartphone housings available for underwater photographers. These include the SeaLife SportDiver, Oceanic+ Smart Housing, Kraken Sports Housing, and other manufacturers including WeeFine and DiveVolk. These housings, paired with your iOS or Android phone, produce great photos and videos. But so do GoPros.
The video linked below discusses the similarities and differences between smartphone housings and GoPros, the pros and cons, and which system is right for you.
Smartphone Housings vs. GoPro Underwater
Shooting Tips for Smart Phones Underwater
If you’ve been reading this guide, you know I believe you can capture great images with any camera. Basic composition, lighting and an understanding of your camera’s (or mobile phone’s) capabilities are the key.
Use these tips when shooting underwater photos with a smart phone housing to take your game to the next level.
1) Find an interesting subject.
2) Get close to your subject to make it prominent in the frame.
3) Consider adding a video light for both still photos and video shooting.
Be sure to watch my video with 5 Basic Composition Tips to keep learning.
Finally, we can set up a Virtual Lesson for one-on-one instruction, image reviews and even gear recommendations.
GoPro and Action Cameras
GoPro cameras can shoot some fantastic video and photos.
I’ve filmed several videos and written a number of different guides that cover the Best GoPro Settings, Filters vs. Lights, GoPro Mounts and Handles, and much more.
Watch all of these videos and read the guides in my dedicated GoPro tutorials section.
Ultimate to GoPro Underwater Video
Advanced Underwater Photography
3 Secrets of Pro UW Photographers
In this video I’ve compiled three tips learned from spending time with some top pro underwater photographers, plus a few insights from my photo and copy editing days. These secrets will help take your photography to the next level.
3 Secrets of the Pros
Packing Your Camera Gear
Underwater photographers love to travel. I had many years in a job where I was traveling a lot to shoot underwater photos, developing a variety of packing strategies for international flights.
Packing underwater camera gear is a very personal and subjective topic, and I’ve shared some ideas in my guide below.
Packing Underwater Camera Gear
Back Button Focus
Back button focus is a popular technique with many underwater photographers, as well as wildlife and sports photographers.
The concept is simple – just assign the autofocus drive to be activated as the AF-ON button is pressed. Then deactivate autofocus from the half depress of the shutter button. This allows the shooter to reliably track the subject and suddenly capture the image – no need to try balancing a half-depress focus with full depress shutter during critical action.
There are a number of pros and cons in using this technique, and I constantly drift between using back button focus and not using it.
Learn all about back button focus in this video tutorial and companion article.
Marine Life Portrait Tips
This article features my favorite tips for capturing interesting marine life portraits. A must-read for any macro or wide-angle photographer.
The Best Fish ID Books
Fish ID books are essential for underwater photographers. Ask any pro and they’ll gladly share their favorite ID books for various regions within our ocean. I’ve compiled some of my favorites into this convenient guide.
This guide is a work in progress. It’s a passion project that falls behind work, family, friends, exercise, my own diving, and side jobs.
Do you have suggestions? Feel free to email me anytime through the About page on this website.
Thanks for reading.
– Brent Durand