How to Get a Career in Underwater Photography?

Photography is perfection in still life. Every day our eyes take in different people, objects and life-forms and while retaining them temporarily is easy, clicking of photographs makes the memory ever-lasting.

Photography as a career offers a lot of opportunities to an individual. In the marine sector too, one can take up photography and become a sought after professional having a specialised skill-set.

underwater photography picture

What is Underwater Photography?

As the name suggests, underwater photography pertains to clicking pictures of anything and everything underwater. The subjects of diving photography not only include marine creatures and animals but also the various distinctive sub-water sceneries, remnants of ships sunk in the years past, and all other unique findings buried under the surface of the oceans.

To be an underwater photographer, an individual requires a high degree of skill-set on account of the submerged setting of the subjects to be photographed.

Even while the basic concept of photography is similar, the fact that one has to delve into the depths of water and click pictures that come out with the right blend of light and beauty makes marine photography a challenging and lucrative task.

Requirements To Become Underwater Photographer

The primary requirement to become a marine underwater photographer is to have the requisite technical skill-set in generic photography. In order to gain and understand this knowledge, an individual is required to have a minimum of experience being a professional photographer before embarking on this profession.

Since marine photography is taking underwater pictures of animals and objects, the next most important requirement is to have a diving certification issued by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) which is the leading diving certifying authority.

The certification levels start right at the basic level – a three to the four-day course – following which individuals can continue learning the various nuances of diving as per their own requirements. An individual can obtain the certification of a diving master or a scuba diving master within three months of starting to learn scuba diving.

The utilisation of the proper medium and the right methodology to get the most beautiful underwater pictures is the next requirement. Deflection of light or distortions of pictures because of flash interference are areas that a marine photographer needs to avoid. By using the right camera, incorporating the best slant while taking the pictures and utilising the additional features to combat light inadequacies, a marine photographer can produce stunning underwater images.

Basic Underwater Photography Tips For A Successful Career 

You will find more success as an underwater photographer if you gain more following and exposure through online platforms like social media and opening a blog.

Having an online portfolio can help make your potential clients be persuaded in hiring your services. You will also find more success if you specialize in one particular aspect of underwater photography like marine life, underwater wreckages, ruins, etc. You can apply to work for companies that will benefit from your speciality.

For a start, you will need to understand the intricacies of photography and learn to take professional shots. The camera required for underwater photography will be different from your average DSLRs, but for starters, you can try your hand at photography using a decent Canon or Nikon DSLR.

Learn to take macro shots, learn about exposure, white balance and all the technical aspects of photography. It would be even better if you can find your style, but that can wait till you get underwater.

While practising and learning by yourself may be the most exciting option, having a photography degree and taking professional lessons will help you solidify the fundamentals and cover everything you need to know at much faster rates.

There are plenty of courses which will teach you all the advanced photography techniques, different, etc. You can also learn about specialized areas of photography like scientific photography. Some schools have courses that are dedicated to underwater photography. This will be a great way to prepare you for your career path.

Once you learn everything you need to know about photography, and you feel confident about your skills as a photographer, as mentioned earlier, the next step is to get a SCUBA diving certification. You may need to get certified first before joining those underwater photography courses as well.

Fortunately, there are plenty of certification programs out there that will teach you all the ins and outs of SCUBA diving. SCUBA lessons will be taught to you by licensed instructors. You can get your certification within a few weeks at max. If you want the best training and the most valuable certification, then find schools that provide PADI issued certificates.

The next job is to find the right equipment and then start to capture magnificent shots. The cameras required for underwater photography are special, they are usually enclosed in waterproof cases. It will probably take you a while before your photos are as good as other professionals, but practice and creativity will help you find your ground in underwater photography.

underwater photography

Underwater Photography Books

For starters, you can refer to some of the below-mentioned books to gain more information on underwater photography.

  • Underwater Photography Masterclass by Alex Mustard
  • The Underwater Photographer by Martin Edge
  • Jim Church’s Essential Guide to Composition by Jim Church
  • Howard Hall’s Guide to Successful Underwater Photography by Howard Hall
  • Water Light Time by David Doubilet
  • Underwater Photography by Tobias Friedrich
  • 700 Sharks Into the Dark by Laurent Ballesta

Underwater Photography Career Prospects & Underwater Photography Jobs

Most underwater photographers work as freelancers for magazines, publications, and television. Many international magazines and channels are continually searching for rising talents.

There aren’t all that many underwater photographers in the world. Starting your career by selling your photos to smaller magazines will be a great way to rack up some experience and get better.

Eventually, as you get better, you can get hired as a staff photographer for major publications like Sports Diver or SCUBA or join networks like Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, etc.

You can also begin your professional journey where you take up projects for a commission. The most important part of being successful in this business is making a name for yourself and finding your style.

Apart from these avenues, professionals can also gain employment with corporations that engage in underwater salvaging operations. Apart from these two options, professionals can also start their own marine photography venture by taking projects on an individualistic commission basis.

Types of Underwater Cameras and Equipment Used

Equipment is undoubtedly the most important part of becoming an excellent underwater photographer. There are many types of underwater photography equipment you need to familiarize yourself with and make use of. Besides finding a good camera, it is imperative to get yourself all the other essentials.

An underwater photography kit should contain:

  • Camera body
  • Macro and wide-angle lens
  • Flat and dome port
  • Port extension, zoom gear, and diopter for your wide-angle lens
  • Port and housing caps
  • Dome port cover, dome port share
  • Cords or cables are necessary to fire your strobe.
  • Two strobes with diffusers included.
  • Focus light and necessary light accessories.
  • Storm case or pelican case for travel
  • NiMH rechargeable batteries of 110/220 volts and chargers
  • Lens cleaning kit
  • A couple of memory cards with 8GB or more storage.

There are many cameras that you can choose from which will work well for underwater photography. Be sure to purchase the housing, strobe and all the other essential types of equipment.

  • Canon A570
  • Canon G9
  • Nikon D90
  • Nikon D300
  • Nikon D300s

Pay-Scale Of Underwater Photographers

According to last known statistics, the average pay package for scuba diving photographers was observed at US$ 35,000 with the highest remunerations going over US$ 60,000, while the lowest came up to around US$ 17,000.

It has been prognosticated that in the coming six years, the employment opportunities in the field of diving photography will rise significantly. The salary aspect for an underwater photographer also depends on the underwater levels that an individual is required to dive – the deeper the sceneries, the higher the pay package and vice versa.

This projected rise in employment statistics in turn will act as a lucrative factor to encourage individuals to take up the profession of underwater photography along with the core factor of having a passion for the subject, in general.

However, since there is no solid job for most underwater photographers, the pay is mostly based on your commercial success and skills.

Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

The article or images cannot be reproduced, copied, shared or used in any form without the permission of the author and Marine Insight.


  1. I really want to go diving with Sharks, but I’m only 15 and can’t afford it. ? I also want to become a Ethologist or Marine Life Photographer I just don’t think I’m smart enough for either I have a D in biology

  2. Wowsers, folks! This sounds like a jolly-good time, but I’m a little jittery about the whole underwater business! Is it possible to become a land-photographer? I’m quite a photographer myself, but how will that help me fill up the ol’ wallet? Any answers are appreciated, sonny!

  3. It’s has been my dream to be a marine photographer and i want to make the environment a better place. Also love photographer.

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