The right gear for underwater photography.
Both underwater photographers and their cameras need to be outfitted with the right gear for a photoshoot. “I usually have a pair of fins and a nice mask that isn’t going to fog up,” says Esser. “I use a DSLR camera with underwater housing that allows me to shoot with full access to my controls.”
Every camera is an underwater camera once you give it the right housing. Underwater housings can be either buoyant or non-buoyant, depending on the needs of the shoot. If you’re in shallow water and want to bob near the surface, buoyant housing is the way to go. If you’re scuba diving into the depths and need your camera to sink, you’ll want the non-buoyant type.
Some cameras, like GoPros and newer iPhones, are waterproof to a certain depth. These digital cameras take excellent photos, but they are not as flexible or as powerful as a DSLR from an established manufacturer, like Canon, Nikon, or Sony. And most professional photographers will want more than what even the best point-and-shoot can offer.
Probably the most important gear you can have, though, is just above the water. If you’re far away from dry land, be sure to have someone else on a boat just above you in case the tide turns and you need an assist.
Underwater photography tips.
Shooting under water means you have to take into consideration a whole new set of variables. Atmospheric conditions under water are going to dictate the clarity of your image. On a calm day with clear water, you’ll be able to get good wide-angle shots of your underwater subjects. But if you’re shooting in low light or there’s a lot of sediment, you’re going to have to get closer to your subject.
Strobes and other light sources can be helpful, but they are also very situational. “There are instances where having strobes has been helpful,” says Alicia Ward. “Like diving at night or deepwater diving.” Strobes, though, are one more piece of electronic equipment you’ll have to waterproof. Additional light sources also open up the potential for backscatter — that is, particles that reflect light back to the source. Be mindful of your conditions before you decide to use lighting. If you’re shooting during the day or close to the surface, try to pack lightly and rely on natural light as much as possible.
If you are using natural, ambient light, different times of day will present different opportunities. “The best light for us is similar to that on land,” says Alicia Ward. “In early morning or late afternoon, you get that golden light that comes from the side.”