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A Beginner’s Guide To Underwater Photography

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There are many different kinds of photography, and you may be familiar with simple portrait photography, nature photography, and product photography. However, being an underwater photographer can be very rewarding. 

One of the less-known types of photography is underwater photography.

Yes, this is totally a thing!

How else do you think that we get those incredible still shots of marine life in action? Somebody in their scuba gear with a camera system is taking those pictures.  

This article discusses what you need to know about underwater photography, particularly when taking an educational course on the matter.  

What is an Underwater Photographer? 

As you might be able to tell, an underwater photographer is a highly specialized and professional photographer who focuses their efforts on everything below the surface.

Underwater photographers often focus on marine landscapes, marine animals, shipwrecks, underwater features such as submerged volcanoes, and more.

Some may also focus on research-oriented work.  

Who Should Take an Underwater Photography Course?  

Many people can benefit from an underwater photography course.

For one, if you want to become an underwater photographer by profession, then you probably want to take a course on the matter.

However, there is no law saying that you need to have a course or certification to be an underwater photographer, but it definitely helps.   

Underwater photography has a whole lot of nuances, and it’s much more complex than you might think.

Therefore, it is very strongly recommended that you take an educational course if you want to be successful in underwater photography and y make a decent living in the profession.  

How Much Does an Underwater Photographer Make?  

It is interesting to note that this profession can actually be very lucrative.

Generally speaking, you can expect to make anywhere from $10,000 to $290,000 per year as an underwater photographer in the US.

With that said, the median salary for underwater photographers in the US is just over $51,000 per year.  

However, keep in mind that nearly 60% of underwater photographers make between $51,000 and $130,000 per year. 

Earning $300,000 per year is not overly common, but it is possible, especially if you work for the right companies.

Or you can sell your photographs with right-to-publish rates. 

Underwater Photography Course Prerequisites 

The prerequisites for a course will depend on the course.

However, you will generally need an open water scuba diving certificate or equivalent to take an underwater photography course. 

Most likely, you will also require an advanced buoyancy certification (or possibly just sufficient dive experience with detailed dive logs).

In most cases, you will also need to be at least 18 years old or 12 years old if you have parental consent. 

Equipment Requirements 

Generally speaking, for the course alone, all you will really need is an underwater camera system as well as a minimum of one external strobe or light.

However, precisely what you will need depends on the course in question.

Of course, you will also need scuba diving gear.

Some courses may provide this gear, some may allow you to rent it, and some may require you to have your own.

For the most part, you can expect the courses to include the gear, such as tanks, regulators, and more, but you will most likely have to pay for their use. 

Underwater Photography

What You Will Learn in an Underwater Photography Course 

You’re probably wondering what you will learn when taking an underwater photography course.

We want to start off by saying that you will learn general photography terms, basics, and skills, but there is much more than that.

Not only will you learn advanced and time-tested photography techniques, but you will also learn them in relation to being underwater.

Refer to the list below for a rough idea of what your average underwater photography course will teach.  

  • Equipment maintenance and cleaning 
  • Memory technology 
  • Filters, lights, backscatter, strobes, and general lighting issues 
  • Composition, use of models, subject selection, use of light, and other photography basics 
  • Underwater awareness, conservation, and buoyancy techniques 
  • Tips on how to make the best photos 
  • Underwater buddy and safety 

What Does a Course Like This Usually Involve? 

You will need to study camera equipment and scuba gear before you take any course to become certified.

Next, there will be classroom training, which involves both theory and hands-on training.

You will then need to do in-pool training with a qualified instructor.

Finally, you will need to complete a series of dives in an open water environment with a qualified instructor.  

How Long Does this Kind of Course Take? 

Exactly how long it takes to complete an underwater photography course depends on the course you choose.

However, generally speaking, taking into account classroom learning, pool learning, and the open dives, you can expect to take anywhere from 1.5 to three weeks to complete an entire underwater photography course. 

Underwater Photography Tips for Beginners 

To help get you started, here are a few underwater photography tips for beginners. 

  • For the best results, you want to try and minimize backscatter. 
  • So you can take great stills, you must master buoyancy control. 
  • Keep in mind that light is different underwater, so using a color-correcting filter is recommended. 
  • It always pays to be pretty close to your subject. 
  • Particularly as a beginner, try and stay in shallower water. 

Wrapping Up

This has been a brief overview of what you should know about becoming an underwater photographer.

If you love being underwater and photography, this is a fantastic way to combine these two hobbies and possibly make a profession of them. 

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