Underwater Photography

What Is Underwater Photography?

Beneath the shimmering surfaces of oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers lies an awe-inspiring world. This world is vastly different from our own, with fascinating creatures, bubbling landscape, and in some cases man-made treasures that haven’t been seen in centuries. Only a select few have had the pleasure of witnessing this different dimension with their own eyes. The rest of us just have to settle for pictures.

Underwater photography enables the average person to get a small peek at this beautiful world. Some underwater photographs might capture marine wildlife, like fish and plants, while other underwater photographs may focus on the landscape. Underwater photography also allows humans to capture images of long forgotten man-made structures and objects, like ships or jewelry.

Since most cameras aren’t equipped to be exposed to water, special underwater cameras must usually be used. These cameras are typically enclosed in waterproof cases. Photographers who shoot underwater must also be trained divers.

Work Environment

First and foremost, an underwater photographer must learn how to dive safely. Although, this may be possible using nothing more than a face mask and snorkel tube, the majority of underwater photographers choose to become certified SCUBA divers.

Contrary to popular belief, SCUBA is actually an acronym, which stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. During SCUBA training, divers are taught how to breathe underwater using a SCUBA tank, which is a metal tank that contains compressed air. When a valve is opened on the tank, it sends oxygen through a tube and into the diver’s mouth. Safety is extremely important while diving as well. Diving students learn about several different safety precautions, including how to rise to the surface and what to do if their oxygen tanks malfunction.

Once an underwater photographer becomes a certified SCUB diver, he will do just what other photographers do – they take photographs.

In order to take these photographs, however, underwater photographers must use special equipment. This includes cameras that are usually sealed in watertight plastic containers. Since light bends and reacts differently when it passes through water, special flashes are also usually necessary when taking photographs underwater.

Underwater photographers must make sure that this equipment is in top condition before diving. The waterproof cases should not be damaged, since this can cause water to leak in and ruin the equipment.

An underwater photographer can take pictures of several different things once he’s below the surface. Some photographers may choose to concentrate on marine wildlife, for example. This can include animals such as fish, dolphins, and turtles, as well as underwater vegetation. An underwater photographer might also choose to focus on things like underwater wreckages or ruins, such as sunken ships or lost cities.

A few underwater photographers might also choose to focus on people as their subjects. Advertisements, for example, will sometimes call for photographs of models underwater. Thrill seekers and other divers might also want their photographs taken to help capture memories of their adventures.

Education Requirements

The most important education that an underwater photographer can get is SCUBA training. SCUBA lessons are taught by licensed SCUBA instructors. Becoming a certified SCUBA diver can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Aspiring underwater photographers should also consider earning photography degrees as well. The courses needed to earn a degree of this sort will teach students the basics of photography, such as how to use photography equipment, as well as advanced photography techniques. Those interested in pursuing an underwater photography career may want to focus on certain specialized areas of photography, like scientific photography. A few educational institutions may even offer courses in underwater photography.

Depending on what an underwater photographer wants to take pictures of, a minor in another area may also be helpful. For example, those interested in taking photographs of marine wildlife and vegetation may want to consider a minor in marine biology or ecology. On the other hand, if a photographer’s primary focus would be underwater wreckages or ruins, a minor in nautical history or archeology may be more appropriate.

Salary and Job Outlook


Individuals interested in pursuing underwater photography careers should be aware that it can be very difficult to pin down how much this profession will pay. For example, some underwater photographers may find it difficult to make a living by selling their work. Others, however, may find that it is a very lucrative career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, does have salary information for some related professions. Photographers in general made roughly $32,490 in 2017, while scientific and technical photographers made roughly $32,630. Commercial divers, on the other hand, made roughly $56,400 in that same year.

Job Outlook

The majority of underwater photographers work as freelancers. Talented individuals may find that they are able to sell their work to different publications, such as books, magazines, and scientific journals. In rare cases, underwater photographers may be hired as staff photographers for major publications, like diving magazines. Advertising agencies and large travel agencies may also consider purchasing photographs taken underwater. Some art museums and galleries may even choose to display the work of very talented underwater photographers. These types of shows can help the photographers sell their work to private collector.

Helpful Resources

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