Underwater Photography 101: The Beginning Beginner

People often ask what the best camera is for underwater photography.  Chase Jarvis said, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” I do believe that is true.  When I first started shooting images underwater, I had no idea what a good snapshot should look like, let alone how to get that image.  I started my underwater photographic journey with a compact camera, that was made for underwater photography.  It had a setting for blue water, and one for green water, and an on-board flash.

Fish over Hard Coral

The above image was taken with my new compact camera on its maiden voyage (or dive) which also happened to be my first dive after certifying.  It isn’t horrible, but I sure could have used some pointers back then.  Later I learned the importance of good lighting and I added a strobe to my compact camera.

Good lighting makes a big difference as you can see from the above photo in my first effort using a strobe.

After a year of experimenting with my compact camera and strobe, I began to master some of the basics and my desire for a DSLR camera became stronger. The next image was taken on my new DSLR’s maiden dive.  You can see that there is improvement in the clarity and composition of this image.

Blenny in hole

My point in showing off my first efforts with underwater photography is to demonstrate that I had a lot to learn in the beginning, and after a couple of years of practicing, I got better.  But I didn’t simply get better.  I studied other images by well known underwater photographers.  I read books on underwater photography and took both private and group classes with underwater photography instructors.  I found some mentors and I asked them a lot of questions and I asked them for critiques of my work. Eventually, I began to take images that I am now proud to put my name on.




Fortunately for beginning underwater photographers, there is help!  I recently became acquainted with Matt Smith who has created a great info-graphic for beginning underwater photographers. You can read his blog here.  At the end of the info-graphic, there is a list of resources you can use to further your study in underwater photography.  Most of them were sources I used when I was learning. One of the most valuable of these was Underwater Photography Guide , an online resource center with lots of accomplished photographers who contribute articles on mastering underwater photography techniques. In addition to these, I joined some underwater photography groups on Facebook where I could see what other photographers were doing.  Wetpixel and Underwater Macro Photographers boast some wonderful photography on Facebook.

So as you progress through your journey in underwater photography, don’t get discouraged.  It is a lot to learn, but there is a lot of help out there.  Check out my “Underwater Photography 101” series and accompanying You Tube tutorials for more information.

If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 or D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me