Dive Photo Guide: Be Creative

Dive Photo Guide: Be Creative


Taking a photo is as simple as clicking a button on a camera with a target object in range.

However, creating a beautiful photo is all about being creative, and extraordinary underwater photography is an art to be mastered.

Many scuba divers aspire to achieve that creative skill in underwater photography.

You can master the art by remembering a few technical and artistic aspects while photo diving.

What are they? Let’s take a look.

Panning and Shutter Speed

Panning is referred to as the horizontal movement of the camera while taking a picture.

While scuba diving we generally take photos of moving objects like fish, turtles, sharks etc. Learning panning techniques is essential to creating a perfect picture of the moving object.

Panning should be adjusted with the shutter speed. Slower shutter speed and faster panning generally makes the background of the picture blurred. You can intentionally slow down the shutter speed to attain a blurred background.

A digital camera with a mid-range zoom lens is perfectly suited to this technique. With a wider lens you will need to apply a slower shutter speed.

The shutter speed should vary between 1/5th - 1/15th of a second. In some high definition cameras there is a feature called aperture priority mode that helps determine the exact shutter speed needed for a particular object. This feature is amazing.

With a slow shutter speed and in the absence of panning, a moving object will show a trail of motion and the background will be sharp. You can then highlight the object using strobe.

Too advanced? Maybe you should start with our Uw Photo Beginner Guide

Picture Perfect Underwater Background

You'll need to keep the color of the background in mind and adjust the shutter speed accordingly. You generally get a blue background underwater which needs a slower shutter speed (1/20th - 1/60th) and a larger aperture to retain the background’s natural color.

Taking photos of reefs can be challenging, as blurriness is not suitable in this instance. Therefore, to portray the background correctly we need to combine both appropriate aperture and shutter speed. We can also send an external flash to reduce the scattering of light at the back.

Underwater photographer in Sardine Ball

Taking pictures of Sardine Bait Ball - Photo: Anqi Lim

Rear Curtain Sync

To achieve a trailed picture, we can set the flash to rear curtain sync, which provides a combination of both strobe and slow shutter speed. Practicing this technique will aid you in producing a perfect photo. However, this feature is not available with every model.

Learn How To Take That Perfect Manta Ray Picture

Special Effects

There are numerous other tricks with which we can create special effects like double exposure, shadowed pictures, making different pattern shots, color shots, texture shots etc.

You will be amazed to know how many ways there are to take pictures of fish eyes to make them appear more artistic.

Photoshop software is also available to provide additional special effects in order to put those creative touches to the photos once they are developed, but that’s a topic for another day.

In addition to receiving formal training for underwater photography, we need to develop a creative eye. Whether you have a high definition camera or a simple one, you can create extraordinarily beautiful photos. One thing to keep in mind: practice makes perfect.

About The Author

Torben Lonne

Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand – and dived most of his life in most of the world.

He is also the co-founder and chief-editor of DIVE.in you can always catch him here [email protected]


  1. Marcus Habaar

    Love this subject, but then again I love UW photography.
    I’m still new to this and using every change I get to photo a little.

    If you could follow this article up wit some on how to photoshop images from good til perfect and on maintance on equipment (I’m thinking about buying)

  2. Diana H

    Anyone that can recommend a nice and cheap camera for diving? I would like some pics of me and my friends when diving but don’t need to go all tech and fancy :)

    • Torben Loenne

      There is so many options when it comes to cameras. If you want a point-and-shoot uw camera to a good price, you should look for a set price.

    • Micky Larson

      I got a small Fuji F80 with a okay uw house. Takes great pics, price was most fair but the house seems a little low quality. It’s not going to last forever and I always need to be careful not to leave with the rest of the gear cuz it would break if the gear boys started messing around with gear and cam. On the other hand, it was cheap as hell and has lived for more than 10 vacations so I’m happy :-)

    • Torben Loenne

      How is the results? Is the pictures turning out okay? If you take care of even a cheep housing it will last long. Wash it after every use, keep O-rings intact, and of cause away from other heavy equipment.

      Good luck catching the great pictures.


      Ps. We are looking for great photos for our articles. Interested? add yours in the box to the right.

  3. DianShan Ee

    Cool, I’m now using Lumix FX4 which is a real basic camera, of course cannot be compared to the pros but I’m happy enough. Would love to learn more about taking underwater pictures using manual mode though, like how to control the white balance and shutter speed etc, especially when talking about how fast you need to react when taking pictures of the marine life.. that would be a good read


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You should also read