How Underwater Photography Works

Getting Your Underwater Photography Gear Together

A photographer usually needs more than just a camera to get going. Aside from snorkeling or SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) equipment, you'll likely need a way to waterproof your camera, lenses and lighting assistance. We'll go over all three pieces of equipment here.

First, let's talk about protecting your camera from the obvious -- the ocean itself. If your camera is already waterproof, check to see to at which depth it's rated. This will tell you how far underwater you can go. If your camera isn't waterproof, take care of this yourself. You can do this in two ways:

  • Plastic bags -- Although it may sound strange and a little too simple, there are plastic bags available for waterproofing. Of course, these bags are specially made. One brand, for instance, is manufactured by German company ewa-marine. The verdict is out on these bags -- they may keep water out, but they also seem to get in the way of camera operation. [source: Greenspun]
  • Housings -- Housings are just what they sound like -- protective "houses." They're made of polycarbonate, aluminum or a combination of the two, and they're built to protect cameras in deep water. Housings are built to work with a certain type of camera, so make sure you select the right one. Often, your housing comes with a flash diffuser, or it may be built in. This goes in front of your internal flash in order to soften the light.

If you have an SLR or DSLR camera, the second thing to consider in your equipment planning is your lens. As you'll learn later in this article, it's best to get as close as possible to your subject, which means that you want to choose a lens that allows you to get in close and still be able to focus. This is where a wide-angle lens helps, as it lets you sneak up close while still capturing a clear image. A macro lens, which is designed to take extremely close images, is another option, one that will reveal the tiny, colorful details common in marine life.

Finally, if you have an SLR or DSLR, you may want to consider additional lighting through an external flash or strobe. In conjunction with an external flash or a strobe, you may want a diffuser to soften and spread out the light.

For the time being, you're done shopping and ready to start planning your photography adventure. Read on to learn what you need to consider before you even leave the shore.