Learning underwater photography is a lifelong pursuit in which you will always be improving and learning techniques, as well as figuring out how to best use new equipment. This is part of what makes it so fun and appealing. When first starting out there are definitely some better ways to speed up this learning curve so you can learn as fast as possible. Here are some of those options.
These days you can learn just about anything online with YouTube. Just make sure the source of the information is good. When learning about underwater photography don’t limit yourself to only information specifically geared towards underwater, a lot of the concepts will apply to land photography as well and there will be a lot more resources for out of the water photography.
A good place to start is with the principles of lighting and exposure. Using natural light and strobes.
For YouTube: Here are some great accounts that touch on all sorts of underwater tutorials from beginner to advanced:
Behind the mask
Although they may seem archaic books are also a great way to learn underwater photography, plus they typically come jam packed with amazing example photos. You can be assured that most books that have been professionally published by a publishing company come with information from a good source. You can even read the books via kindle.
Remember that before there was the internet and youtube this was one of the only ways to share this type of information and most of the information still applies today.
For me this is the Bible of underwater photography
Take a course online
For those who do not have diving accessible to them daily but still would like to learn from the best, many professional photographers also offer remote courses. Either in the form of recorded material or virtual – Zoom, Skype, Meetup courses (which have become more and more popular in these current times). This is an excellent way to learn since the instructor can tailor the course for you and also personally review your work to give you tips on how to improve.
You can actually just contact your favorite photographer (including me the author Adam Leaders – instagram.com/adlephoto ) to see if this is something they offer, or go with someone who is already established and currently running online courses regularly such as our very own Ran Mor of Mozaik Underwater Cameras:
Practice on land or in the pool.
Many of the skills are the same. This is a great way in between dives or dive trips to keep your skills sharp and try out new techniques. If you can develop your eye for good composition (see rule of thirds) it will transfer to setting up your shots underwater.
Also on land you have the ability to practice lighting with strobes. Just be careful about firing your strobes too much out of the water, they can overheat.
If you have access to a pool, equipment and tanks then you can really get in some buoyancy training with your camera as well. Simply get in the water and practice being neutrally buoyant in proper trim with your camera out. While you are there also practice finning techniques, especially back finning.
Pro Tip: talk to a local dive shop with a training pool and offer to take photos of their confined sessions. They will be more than happy to provide you with the tanks and equipment in exchange for the photos. You can also contact local swim teams to do the same. They will greatly appreciate it, you will make friends and get a ton of practice.
The best way to learn photography fast: Spend a holiday on location learning with a photo pro.
Unfortunately underwater photography is not very lucrative on its own so most of your favorite photographers on Instagram also teach underwater photography. Even if they don’t advertise it they will be honored that you would even ask, so don’t be afraid to message them and inquire. If they don’t personally teach photo courses they might be able to point you in the direction of someone they respect or even the person who in fact trained them.
The courses will always be catered to you personally and typically consist of theory in the class, application in the water, then a review of your work for the day. Doing this over multiple days is invaluable and the best way to learn not only shooting but how best to use and maintain your camera as well as diving techniques. You will get personal attention and critique from someone with real life experience and even better: someone whose style you really like
With all of this being said the best and only way to learn and get better is to keep practicing. You can watch all of the youtube videos you can but if you never apply them then it will all be for nothing. So get out there whether you are next to a body of water or not and learn, practice, improve.
If you have any tips to add please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
- 10 Things You Must Know Before Starting a Career as an Underwater Photographer – April 15, 2021
- What is the Best and Fastest Way to Learn Underwater Photography – September 8, 2020
- How to Extract Perfect Still Photos from 4K Video – May 14, 2020