I Love Diving!  Now How Can I Take Some Amazing Photos???

On many dive adventures, we meet many divers who really want to know how to get started in underwater photography.  Of course the first question that usually comes up is what camera and housing are we currently shooting, and what setup would we recommend to someone who is just starting out.

How We Got Started

We both started out back in the days before go-pro’s were popular for scuba divers.  So, we both opted for a point and shoot style camera.  The Olympus SP-350 was super popular with divers because it was one of the few point and shoot cameras that could shoot RAW photos (more on that in another post) and also had a hot shoe, which allowed a direct connection from your camera to your strobe.  These were benefits that you used to only be able to get in SLR’s, which was too pricey to start out doing.

Here’s a pic of Todd holding an Olympus SP-350, in an Ikelite housing with a strobe:


Ahhh, things were so much simpler back then!  It’s not as small as a go pro, but look how small and compact everything is!  SLR control in a small package is definitely an advantage of having a point and shoot setup.

For the time, the camera took great photos when compared to the other cameras in it day.  Here’s one example from a trip to Maui:

Those were the good ol’ days.   This little setup was a great primer that wasn’t too pricey and allowed me to practice the fundamentals of underwater photography.  About a year later, i finally made the plunge and graduated to a bigger setup.  (That will be a discussion for another time).

What Would We Recommend for New Underwater Photographers

First, let’s get some disclaimers out of the way.   Before you even think of taking a camera in the water with you, make sure that your diving skills are on point and you know what good dive etiquette is:

  • Make sure you have really good bouyancy first.  (It’s 50 times harder when you are trying to take a photo)
  • Make sure you actually enjoy diving first.  You don’t want to spend money on gear you will never use.
  • Don’t touch anything, dont take anything. (This should apply for all divers!)
  • Make sure to have good basic understanding of how your camera works

Underwater Photographer’s Dive Etiquette
  • Let non-photographers go ahead of you when looking at anything pointed out by a dive guide
  • When diving with other photographers, take a few shots, then let other photographers go
  • Inform your dive guide of your photo dive plan
(We will have a whole episode devoted to dive etiquette coming up)

Cameras To Consider

Action Camera’s are definitely the way to go when you are first starting out.   They are compact, cheap, and take great photos and videos right out of the box.  Plus you can buy all sorts of accessories for them (such as lighting, mini-domes or close up macro lenses).  Here’s an example of Mai shooting with a GoPro and some lights.  There’s even a magic filter attached for shallower depths:

Here’s an example of a picture i took in Palau with the same GoPro with a mini dome:

Brands To Consider
Gold Standard: GoPro Hero – Around $350 for the latest model.  (Less for prior generations)
Competitor: DJI Osmo Action – Around $280 for the latest model
Value Option: AKASO (or similar) – Around $50

Point and Shoot / Starter Cameras
Action cams are great, but if you really want to have control of aperture, shutter speed, and strobe output, as well as have better quality lenses to choose from, it may be time to step up to a legitimate camera setup.  Some brands to look into are listed below:
  • SeaLife has a variety of point and shoot cameras and accessories
  • Olympus was never a big competitor to the likes of Canon and Nikon when it came to the camera space overall, but they found their niche in underwater photography.  Because of that, they have some great setups for their point and shoot and compact SLR’s that are worth looking into with lots of accessories available.

SLR / Mirrorless Options

We don’t recommend starting here.  Your camera is super expensive, and buying a housing and strobe for it is also super expensive.  Plus, the chance of improperly sealing your housing grows exponentially, which makes for a bad combination.  We will cover making the leap into using ‘professional’ setups in another post.   But, if you have to do it, buy used.  Check eBay for underwater housing for your camera.  You can usually save a big chunk of change.

Listen To The Podcast On This Topic

If you haven’t heard our conversation on this topic, have a listen to episode 002.  (You can skip to 26:46 if you want to get right to the segment):