Underwater Camera & Underwater Video Camera
When we start exploring the scuba lifestyle, there are loads of considerations when it comes to buying your first dive gear. The same goes for underwater photography. Perhaps you’re brand new to the world of collecting your visual memories from beneath the sea’s surface, or maybe you’re here to get some additional gear for new adventures. Whatever has brought you to our Underwater Photo and Video section at Divers Direct, welcome! We’re glad to help you find what you’re looking for (and take a better picture of it).
If you’re a new photographer of the deep blue’s majestic environment, take a scroll to the bottom of the page where you’ll find plenty of helpful tips to guide you towards picking out the perfect underwater camera for your visually stunning adventures.
Why bring a camera underwater?
The phrase “Pics or it didn’t happen” compels us to document our lives in photos and videos, especially the interesting parts, and share them with the world. We now live in a time where not only is everyone interested in each other’s travels and hobbies, but they want to see what you’re up to and be part of it too. It’s quite a fascinating and innovative way for everyone to live vicariously through you.
With the right underwater photography gear, you can use your underwater adventures to graffiti the walls of your social media accounts. If you’re more personally or privately sentimental about your experiences, you’ll get some shots for your scrapbooks or to decorate your walls at home. But, of course, it’s one thing to take photos just to visually jot down a memory, but another thing entirely when you aspire to take the best photo or video you can. Not only will your skills need to be up to par to achieve an excellent shot, but so will your camera, lighting, and filters. Eventually, should you so choose, your underwater media can go from Instagram to art gallery when you can zero in on exactly what it takes (equipment and otherwise) to offer up your perspective of the environment to everyone else in a way that’s beyond “Look what I saw underwater”—a way that says, “Look at this art I collected from the sea.” Now, you may already be a photographer on land, and you may already have a certain skill set there. That’s great, you can apply much of what you already know underwater and simply adjust accordingly to the new environment as you learn.
So, why should you bring a camera underwater? Well, there are many reasons. Some may say so you can take a really great photo or video and show your friends and family (and strangers on the internet) what you’ve witnessed underwater. Another reason is to study or potentially bring awareness about certain species or underwater phenomena. Another motive could be that you feel the call to create art and wish to do so beneath the water’s surface. The big picture is to become a part of this modern science of capturing a myriad of fascinating species in an ancient environment and immortalizing that specific moment of underwater existence.
Choosing an underwater camera:
Let’s do an experiment together. Take a moment to think about what you want to take a picture or video of. Do you want to take close up shots of reef life, patterned shots of plants that are flowing gently with the current, maybe action shots of sport fish or sharks, or perhaps entire wreck or cave excursions? Actually take a moment to close your eyes and envision exactly the kind of underwater media you’d like to create.
Whatever it is you just saw in your mind will be your best guide on how to navigate your underwater camera purchase. To be clear about what we mean, how deep would you have to go to get that shot? How was the lighting at that level? How far away were you from your subject? Maybe you have no idea where you want to start, and all you know is that you want to take a camera underwater and figure it out when you get down there. That’s okay, these are just some things to consider when looking into the right style of camera for you. Don’t worry, we'll walk you through which cameras and lighting set ups are best for the kind of media you want to create.
So now that you’re thrilled to begin the chase for the perfect shot, let’s get started. There’s a lot to choose from in the underwater camera world, but to make things super easy, just jot down the three things you’ll need to get started towards obtaining your dream picture:
Oh, and just a heads up, that dream shot may not be the first picture you take underwater. You’ll need some practice before you get there, but you’ll hone your skill with time, patience, and the right equipment.
Pro tip when it comes to getting your first underwater camera, start with something smaller and easy to use like a GoPro HERO8. Now, GoPros are known for being the adventure camera. They do incredibly well with action shots and videos and they’re amphibiously awesome since they’re designed for excellent images on land and in the sea. Here’s what’s truly great about getting a GoPro as a starter camera: their versatility is a major plus so that you can take them with you on every picture/video-worthy experience. Whether you’re diving, surfing, hiking, or taking a picture of your family at a reunion, the GoPro HERO8 (and other styles) is made for it all.
Another great beginner-friendly camera is the SeaLife 3.0. It’s a simple starter due to its piano-key style buttons and it includes built in color filters for your color enhancing needs. There’s also no need to get a housing for this underwater camera since it’s ready to dive down to 200ft as is. Although this camera does not come with a built in flash, SeaLife offers high quality external lights to enhance your shot, making it perfect for close-up shots or ones that are farther away. To further simplify your needs, we offer camera and lighting sets like the SeaLife Micro 3.0 Pro 3000 Underwater Camera Set and the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K Pro 2000 Camera and Light Set.
Of course, it’s always recommended to do as much research as possible when considering your first underwater camera. And remember, envision that perfect shot in your mind, and let that vision guide you towards what you need.
While most cameras made for the sea have a depth rating appropriate for shallow water diving while the camera is naked (or without housing), if you think you’ll be going deeper than about 30’ for your photography needs it’s best to go ahead and get underwater housing. Underwater camera housings can take your GoPro HERO8 from a depth rating of 33ft to 196ft. That’s a big jump! Additionally, since a camera housing keeps your camera totally secured, you can relax a bit more and just enjoy the journey no matter what depth you’re at.
If you already have a camera, take a look and see if the camera company has a housing for it so you can take the camera you’re already familiar with underwater. For instance, if you have an Olympus TG-6 that already has a depth rating of 50ft, just grab the TG-6 Housing to take your shallow water snapshots into greater depths.
The number one consideration when taking a picture both on land and in the water is lighting. Your light situation in relation to the subject of the picture will tell you all you need to know to make any necessary adjustments so that you can capture the best shot. Here’s the thing though, water tends to change the way light works, so while you may be confident in your abilities to manipulate lighting for a photo on land, things get a little trickier once you submerge. Here’s what happens—the deeper you go, the more low-frequency red light gets scattered by the waves, shifting visible colors toward the blue end of the spectrum. Applying your own light to the scene is vital when you start to get down into the darkness, but to help manipulate the shot to a greater vividness, you may also need filters for your lens to bring the true colors of the image back to life. Let’s dig a little deeper into what this all means.
You have three main ways of lighting your images. (1) Built in camera flash, (2) strobe light, and (3) lights (a.k.a. video lights). The built in camera flash is ideal when collecting macrophotography (small subjects up close). A camera’s built in flash will not travel far through the water, so the closer the subject the better. The strobe light is the most powerful light of these three options. Strobes are perfect for working with larger subjects that are farther away. The only real downside of strobe lighting (and built in flash, for that matter) is that you don’t know how the picture will look before you take it, but you might be surprised with how amazingly the image turned out with such a powerful light. Video lights are basically flashlights connected to your camera. The light can be turned off and on when needed, illuminating the way to an exquisite picture, and you’ll know how the image will look as you’re taking it. The best part about video lights is the ability to take those far away shots as well as close ups. They can tend to be a bit pricey and aren’t as powerful as strobe lights, but they certainly get the job done, and their versatility can’t be beat.
Again, if you have no idea where you want to point your lens yet, it’s best to start with a built in flash first while you’re getting your feet wet with underwater photography. You can always add the additional lights later as you figure out your style.
Additional necessities and accessories:
Finally, let’s talk about filters and other fun. As mentioned above, the color red is the first to go as we venture into water’s depths. This causes your vision and your photos to end up all blue-da-ba-dee-da. Red and magenta filters help to bring these colors back into the picture so that the image you collect turns out brilliantly vivid and full of life.
To reiterate, the SeaLife 2.0 comes with these color-enhancing filters already built in (which is great if you’re looking to keep your equipment bundle simple and concise), but nearly all underwater cameras have filters that are made specifically for that style of camera. Got yourself a GoPro with underwater housing? Pick up a pack of Polar Pro DiveMaster filters to go with it.
If you’re trying to get some seriously close-up shots, get yourself a macro lens as well. The Polar Pro Hero8 Switchblade for the GoPro has your much-needed color filter and a macro lens in one easy package. Or if you’re looking to get larger shots of entire shipwrecks and coral reefs with your SeaLife camera, the SeaLife 0.75x Wide Angle Conversion Lens will help capture a grander view of the scene.
So, browse through our selection of camera bodies, housings, lights, and other photo gear necessities to find a combo that’s perfect for your underwater media needs. If you still have questions? Feel free to ask us!
Keep reading on for tips and tricks for when you get all the gear you need and are ready to dive in.
Beginners—How to get started with underwater photography
You want to take beautiful underwater photos to show your friends, family, or maybe even an art gallery one day. That’s great! But where on earth do you start?
First of all, you’ll need to start scuba diving if you don’t already. Sure, you can take some wonderful pictures and videos while snorkeling and freediving as well, but to really allow the necessary time to focus on sharpening your skills and getting a clearer, cleaner photo, you’ll need to start breathing underwater. If you don’t yet have your SCUBA certification, we can help you there! Check out our scuba certification page or call your local Divers Direct to start your scuba training so you can get comfortable in the water and start your photography journey.
After you start to get comfortable with the dive experience and start to master your buoyancy, you and your camera can begin to explore the underwater environment and subjects of interest. Here are some helpful tips for beginners to start practicing your craft:
- Start shallow. The deeper you go, the more you’ll need to add the effects of lighting and filters. That can seem a bit overwhelming if you’re new at photography and especially if you’re new at photography and diving together. Take it slow. Start off with a few easy recreational dives where the lighting is abundant and you can focus more on your camera’s functionality and how it captures the shot, your angle in relation to the picture, etc. Christ of the Abyss in Key Largo is a popular underwater photography spot that’s great for beginners due to its shallow, well lit waters. As you become more familiar with your camera, your diving skills, and your personal photography style, you can start to take things a bit deeper as you go along.
- Master your buoyancy control. Even if your subject is moving, the camera needs to be steady to avoid blurry images when possible. You can master buoyancy by mastering breath control. Whether it’s archery, billiards, or photography, steady aim stays the same—you’ll get a better shot when you shoot on the exhale.
- Sometimes when we get excited about something new, we want to click, click, click away at everything we see. While there’s nothing wrong with that, to sharpen our skill as a photographer, it’s best to take it slow and focus on quality rather than quantity. Really take some time with your image—study the lighting, colors, movement, angles, and everything else you can observe about the scene. Take your time, and you might surprise yourself with how well your photos turned out when you check them out later.
- A popular photography rule-of-thumb is the “Rule of Thirds” which keeps your main subject within only one-third of your photo so that it creates a more dynamic image. If your subject, perhaps a brilliant blue tang, is in the middle of the photo, it tends to off-set the balance of the picture. By bringing your tang into just one-third of the image, it creates greater depth in relation to the background and overall, makes for a better picture.
- Follow your creative intuition. Sure, the “Rule of Thirds” is a great guideline to explore with your photos, but if you want to try something else, don’t glue yourself to that rule. Once you get comfortable with Photography 101 guidelines, feel free to throw that rulebook out the window (metaphorically speaking, of course—please don’t litter!) and do your own thing. The greats don’t become the greats by following all the rules and doing what everyone else does, though they are skilled in those rule-abiding fields all the same. So, trust your vision, explore your own creativity, and make your own rules as you go along.
- Here’s a rule you’ll have to follow, though: Keep up with your dive buddy! When we get so immersed in exploring our craft, we can sometimes forget that we’re depending on people and people are depending on us. Your camera is not your new dive buddy, the human you brought with you is. In the midst of your picture-taking fun, remember to check on your buddies, and if you’re stopping to take a picture of something, let them know so that you don’t get separated.
- The last tip we have for you is to be patient with your practice. You’ll need to be patient with building your buoyancy and dive skills if you’re a new diver, you’ll need to be patient with building your photography skills as you learn your way around the camera, and you’ll need to be patient with your subjects. Fish are inherently skittish. If they keep running off as you approach them, don’t get frustrated. Relax and take your time as you slowly get closer to your subject, and relax and take your time as you slowly get closer to that dream picture in your mind’s eye. It will come, just be patient and keep practicing.
Our top picks:
We recommend several underwater cameras that are easy to use for beginner and intermediate photographers. The SeaLife 3.0 is beginner-friendly and reasonably priced. The big piano buttons on the underwater housing make it easy to use even while wearing gloves. It comes in its own housing and has photo and video modes, making it a solid point-and-click underwater camera.
For the more experienced photographer looking to take close-ups and wide-angle shots, and who's willing to invest in high-quality accessories, we recommend the Olympus TG-6. We offer all the underwater camera accessories you need along with underwater lighting. You can capture everything from tiny blennies to great white sharks with this entire underwater kit.
Does your dive buddy like barrel rolls? Is that remora getting a little too friendly? The best way to capture moments like these is with video. GoPro cameras can shoot video up to 4k resolution, and with the proper housing are waterproof to nearly 200 feet. The options for mounting this underwater video camera are limitless—head mount, wrist mount, pole mount, speargun mounts, chest mounts... the list goes on!
Need to know more about how to choose the best underwater camera? Stop in one of our local Florida dive shops or call 1-800-DIVE-USA to speak with one of our friendly, knowledgeable underwater photography experts.