Underwater photography tips for beginners

21st July 2016, 03:00pm

Sea lovers rejoice. Darren Jew is a Canon Master and underwater photographer who shares his simple hints to get you ready for your first underwater photography dive. No matter whether you're trying underwater photography on a scuba dive, snorkel, swim or from a submersible vehicle, it’s important to ensure you’re comfortable with your diving skills and buoyancy first.

Photography lets me go out into this amazing world, bottle up all the incredible things I see. I then take the essence of that wonder, distill it, and pour it out for everyone to share.

Practice using your camera indoors in a dimly lit room

Take some photos with the camera inside the housing, in macro mode and with the flash on. Take photos of some small objects and see how your photos come out and test out the range of your camera with macro mode on and off.

Stay calm and swim with a friend


It’s important to always keep breathing so remember, don’t hold your breath when you dive. Always wear a 7mm wet-suit in winter and swim slowly and stay calm to concentrate on the environment around you. And don’t battle the current, go with the flow. Always swim with a dive or snorkel buddy.

Use a wide-angle lens

A wide-angle lens allows you to easily point in the general direction of your subject and shoot. Using a viewfinder makes it almost impossible to frame your subject and live view is difficult during a full moon tidal current. The wider the lens the closer you'll need to get to the subject but it’s easier to get everything in frame – try Canon's EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM for great perspective up close.

Pre-set your camera and shoot in RAW

Shoot in evaluative metering, servo focus and manual mode at 1/800th second and at f2.8 to f5.6 depending on your lens choice. Always set your ISO to auto as this is will help the exposure remain consistent in scenarios where cloud cover changes or a diver or boat casts a shadow. If you are using a Canon PowerShot G16, it boasts full manual so following the same settings will work but if for a PowerShot D30 or a smaller compact you're best off putting the camera into underwater mode, which helps amplify the red tones. And whatever your DSLR, always shoot in RAW.

Three key tips for successful underwater photography:

  1. When using an underwater housing set up the camera and turn it on before closing the housing.
  2. Adjust your DSLR’s sleep timer so the camera can go to sleep between when you seal the housing and you go shooting to conserve battery life.
  3. High speed burst is really great to use if you see a shark or a stingray. They don’t stick around for long so you’ll need to start shooting quickly.
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