above image © Nick Blake

by Nicholas Watson

This basic guide is for you if you are: 

Starting out in Underwater Photography or want a few basic ideas about how to make your photographs better in a few easy steps.  It won’t replace face to face tuition, a more in-depth book or workshop.  Remember Underwater Photography is potentially the most difficult genre of photography. Before you think about taking a camera underwater, you need to be a competent diver who has excellent in buoyancy control. Your own personal safety, and that of the environment you’re working in should be your primary concern.  It’s a mistake to underestimate the task load that carrying a camera system entails.


In this guide you will be given some background to the basics, but if you are struggling, just follow the suggested settings and strobe positions.  This should help you get better results, and you will then want to tweak these as you grow in confidence.  These are the things that we will be discussing: 

  • The theory of exposureto understand the balance of ISO, aperture and shutter speed 
  • What lens type to use – Macro or Wide Angle?
  • Suggested settings that work for better results – try these at first if you are struggling, and tweak gently
  • Composition – ideas for more pleasing images
  • In-water adjustment to suggested settings – using this easy-to-follow table 
  • Best practice, Post processing, Further Help
  • And finally from Alex Mustard  

The theory of exposure

  • Good photographs start with the correct exposure, meaning it isn’t over or under exposed for the strength of light (be it flash, ambient lighting or a combination of the two) in your image.  You can tell whether the image is exposed correctly by using the inbuilt light meter when looking through the viewfinder.  It’s in the viewfinder, but also on the LCD screen at the back as on P2.  Eventually you will review the exposure using the histogram of the image.   
  • Below are three examples of the LCD screen of a Nikon D90.  You will see the characteristic scale of overexposed (+) – correctly exposed (0) – underexposed (-).


Overexposed                                                             Correctly Exposed                               Underexposed


                                                            Figure 1 Overexposed (+)


                                                          Figure 2 Correctly Exposed (O)



                                                                Figure 3 Underexposed (-)                     


What type of lens to use