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How to take underwater shots with DSLR camera

Taking underwater shots with a DSLR camera can seem intimidating at first, but with the right gear and technique, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or just starting out, capturing stunning images of marine life and underwater landscapes can be a unique and exciting challenge.

In this article, I’ll cover some essential tips and tricks to help you get started with taking underwater shots with your DSLR camera.


Taking underwater shots calls for the perfect kit. A waterproof housing, tripod and wide-angle lens are essential when using a DSLR camera. Plus, a flash that can be triggered remotely is needed. To begin, renting might be best. If you wish to invest, you can buy a complete underwater photography set-up.

Let’s now dive deeper into the aspects of taking underwater shots with a DSLR camera.


Capturing photos underwater with a DSLR camera is thrilling, but you’ll need some special gear. Land photography has different equipment, so maybe you’re not aware of what’s required for underwater shots.

You’ll need a housing for your camera body and lenses. This must be made to keep water away from the electronics, plus allow you to access the controls. For great results, consider an external strobe or video lights.

Accessories like wide angle or macro wet-lens adapters can broaden your underwater shots. When buying gear, make sure it fits your housing properly, or you could lose it under water!

Waterproof housing

Two types of waterproof housing exist for DSLR cameras: hard cases and soft bags. Hard cases are made of durable plastic and are great for protection, particularly under extreme conditions. However, they can be bulky and not as easy to move around.

Soft bags are lighter and more portable. They protect against dirt and sand on land, rain and moisture outdoors, and underwater activity like snorkeling. They are available in different sizes that fit most DSLR camera bodies.


A lens for underwater photography isn’t one-size-fits-all. Go for low f-stop zooms and macro lenses. Also, check if it’s compatible with your camera.

Wide angle and Fisheye lenses are great for capturing large areas or close-ups of the ocean floor. Super wide Fisheye lenses even let you get 180 degree shots with unique perspectives.

Macro lenses are perfect for shooting small sea creatures like seahorses and corals. Plus, they take good pics from further away, so you can stay safe. If you want closeups, you’ll need an underwater macro lens. It will give you sharp, colorful images and let you get up close with your subject.

And, a macro lens teleconverter will let you extend your macro lens range even deeper into the depths. Capture amazing detail of creatures that most people never get to see!


Taking snaps underwater with a DSLR doesn’t have to be tough. Just recognize the settings and get to know them before submerging. To ensure you capture the perfect shot before you start swimming, here are some helpful tips and tricks I have learned.

Let’s look at the settings and how they function.

Camera mode

To successfully start underwater photography, you need to set your DSLR camera in the right mode. Here are some options:

1) Manual Mode: This lets you control all settings. This includes shutter speed, aperture and ISO. This gives you more artistic control and sharper images if the exposure is correct.

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2) Aperture Priority Mode (Av): You can choose the aperture (F-stop) here. The camera will control other settings depending on the lighting. With a compact underwater housing, this may be limited as some settings may not be available. If there is a strobe flash, this option allows you to easily adjust and sync the strobe power based on the situation or desired effect.

3) Shutter Priority Mode (Tv): You have total control over the shutter speed, even with auto metering systems. Slower speeds won’t work due to flashing effects but faster speeds can help when there are strong currents or movement of objects.

4) Programmed Auto Mode (P): In low light conditions like caves or night dives where lights are needed, this mode lets the camera select both aperture and shutter speed values. This prevents incorrect exposure selection and blurred images due to incorrect exposures, which can reduce resolution quality in imaging sensors. Liveview capabilities remain stable underwater unlike regular outdoor cameras.

ISO settings

ISO settings are very important in photography of any kind, but especially with underwater pics. Adjust your ISO to the environment you’re in for best quality results. Low ISO settings and smaller apertures show off the blue in the water. Higher ISO settings can give you more detail and texture for your photo.

Start off at ISO 100 and adjust as needed. If it’s dark, raise your ISO as much as possible without sacrificing picture quality.

White balance

White balance is essential for underwater shots with a DSLR camera. It tells your camera which colors to display. There are several white balance options, such as Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Flash, Custom White Balance, and Color Checker Passport. You may need to adjust your preset setting depending on the light and depth of the shot.

Additionally, you can use underwater color correction filters to make colors look natural in photographs and videos.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is key when taking underwater photos with a DSLR camera. The faster the shutter speed, the sharper and more detailed your photos will be. Whereas a slower shutter speed blurs moving objects such as fish, creating a dreamy effect.

Light levels decide the shutter speed. If there is more light, set the camera to a faster shutter speed. If less light is available, opt for a slower shutter speed.

A good starting point is 1/125S or even slower in low-light scenarios. Anything below 1/50S should provide decent results. 1/100S gives generally good results too.

By controlling factors like aperture, ISO sensitivity and white balance, you can create unique photography styles. Play around with these settings to find what works best for you!


Shooting underwater with a DSLR? Composition’s key. Photogs have their own techniques. Confusing at first? Here’s help!

Advice on attaining good composition when shooting underwater: it’s yours!


DSLR cameras are essential for taking underwater shots. Angles can make or break an image. It can be tricky to see the composition under the ocean. So, I focus on angles and composition when my camera is submerged.

I experiment and get creative with my shots. When shooting a school of fish in formation, I tilt the camera to get a better angle or focus on their movement. I use slow shutter speed or faster shutter speed to freeze their motion.

When there’s less turbulence, I change the height of the camera lens. This helps me explore visual effects like leading lines and vanishing points. I use distance and perspective to decide how far away an object should appear.

Patience is important in capturing special moments underwater. I wait for natural elements to come together. It’s worth it!


For a perfect underwater shot, framing is key. Take some time to compose the shot for the desired result. Focus two-thirds of the frame with the subject in the center. This is just a general rule, but you can adjust to fit your goal.

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Think about other elements in the image. For example, lines or backgrounds. Also, look for bubbles or marine life that can add interest and beauty to the piece.

Balance can be created with diagonals or symmetrical subjects. Also, consider how close or far away you are when taking in-depth shots. This adds depth perception and enhances texture and gradation.


Lighting up underwater can be tricky. Without the right mix of distance, angle and power, the shot won’t shine. But with a DSLR camera and some practice, stunning photos can be taken with ease. Here are five tips:

1. Use an external strobe. This will give you control over intensity and angle. It is especially important for macro shots since depth of field will be very shallow.

2. Position the strobe optimally. When shooting wide-angle photos, place the strobe at a 45 degree angle to the side of the subject. For macro shots, keep it less than a foot away for detailed textures.

3. Adjust the power output. Vary the power output based on the size and distance of the subject. For far away reefs, use a lower power setting. For close-up shots, increase power to bring out details clearly.

4. Play with white balance settings. This can add color to compositions. Try out different settings, like “daytime” or “open water” to avoid washing out parts with too much light.

5. Calibrate your camera. Before the dive, make sure the settings are right. This will ensure accurate colors and aperture, shutter speed, ISO levels etcetera.

Tips and Tricks

Photography has always held my fascination, particularly underwater shots. Capturing the beauty of sea life and unusual angles is an exhilarating experience!

To snap those perfect pics with a DSLR requires some extra work, but the results are truly remarkable. Here I will share some of the tips I’ve acquired over time to help you get the most magnificent underwater shots with your DSLR.

Use a flash

When shooting underwater, a flash can really help you get the desired shot. A built-in flash won’t suffice, so use an underwater strobe or panel flash. It brings out the colors and gives contrast and clarity. An external flash will reduce green hues, blue tints and backscatter. Check that the unit is powerful enough for the depth and waterproof.

Consider an additional battery backup system. To gain more control over the textures, try various aperture levels and on-camera lighting solutions. You can even set up multiple lights for an image!

Use a tripod

A tripod is the key to steady shots and clear photos when using a DSLR camera underwater. Tripods come with polarization ability and this helps to regulate the light that reflects off the water’s surface. This gives your photos more colour and better balance.

When taking pictures in darker places, like caves or at night, a tripod with a LED/strobe light can also be useful. This will light up your subject from various angles and can create stunning visuals.

Use a snoot

A snoot is great for underwater shooting with a dslr. The bundle of light from the strobe is too wide, and causes back scatter on the subject. The snoot narrows the beam and targets the subjects near it, reducing backscatter and increasing color saturation.

When using strobes, also use a diffuser. It disperses the light, so there are no hot or dark spots in the photo.

If you’re using lenses shorter than 35mm, use two snoots on opposite sides. This will let you light different parts of the subject from different angles. For lenses longer than 35mm, one snoot should be enough.

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Use a focus light

A focus light can help you take amazing underwater photos with your DSLR camera. Your focus point should be in plain sight when taking a photo. A focus light lets you see what’s right in front of your lens, even in dark waters. Select a high-quality, waterproof focus light which will last for multiple dives. It should be precisely adjustable for the environment’s lighting. A variable power LED model is best, as it offers intense and even illumination of the subject at all depths.

The goal of a focus light is achieving sharpness. Point the spotlight at the subject while shooting. This ensures colors are accurately reproduced and shadows are not lost.


Process your DSLR underwater shots for the best outcome! Editing the image will balance light, color, and contrast. You can also adjust saturation, sharpness, and focus.

Post-processing is key for successful underwater photography.

Adjust the brightness and contrast

Adjusting brightness and contrast is essential for post-processing underwater shots taken with DSLRs. It depends on the type of shot, but you need to make changes to get the best out of the dive photos. I recommend using brightness and contrast sliders in an editing program or Adobe Photoshop Elements or Lightroom for global changes. This brings out zones that murky water may have hidden.

It’s important to view the image at 100%. This helps decide where to move the sliders and avoid making drastic changes. Unnatural photos may result. Levels can be adjusted to extract extra detail from shadows and highlights. Remember to make subtle changes here too.

Don’t forget noise reduction! This is key when shooting in low light or with long exposure times while taking macro images underwater. DeNoise AI is great software that removes noise without losing detail or color accuracy – no matter how tricky the shot is!

Adjust the color saturation

After each underwater shoot, adjust the color saturation to improve the image quality. This is because water absorbs some colors, making the photograph desaturated. Use a photo-editing program like Lightroom or Photoshop to adjust the saturation level for a vibrant image.

Tweak the blues and greens too, to avoid a monochrome look. When post-processing underwater photographs, remember: less is more with color saturation! If done wrong, or too much, the image could look surreal instead of attractive.

Sharpen the image

Post-processing time! We use digital tools to adjust and upgrade pics and vids. One key part of post-processing is sharpening. This makes images clearer by emphasizing the edges.

Too much sharpening can make the image look odd or grainy, so adjust it carefully. When sharpening an underwater shot, start with 50%, then build up to the level of detail desired.

Crop and straighten the image

I take a shot underwater. Then, I crop and straighten the image. I make sure to crop cleverly to avoid blurs.

For panorama shots, I stick to the rule of symmetry. Keeping the horizon line straight is important. If it is not, the picture can be ruined. To make sure my photos are straight, I use cropping guidelines or remove distortion.

With software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, I can also remove chromatic aberrations from interior reflections in the water.


Taking underwater shots with a DSLR camera requires some specialized equipment and techniques, but the results can be truly breathtaking. By investing in good underwater housing and familiarizing yourself with the various settings and features of your camera, you can capture stunning images of marine life and underwater landscapes.

Remember to always prioritize safety and take care when diving or snorkeling, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles, lighting, and techniques to create truly unique and beautiful images. With these tips and some practice, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a skilled underwater photographer.

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