Underwater photography is one of the most fascinating career options. If you have a passion for both photography and the ocean then this is a field that is not only lucrative but also satisfying. Let’s know more about a career as an underwater photographer.
What is photography?
Photography is defined as the art of capturing light in the form of images with the help of a camera. The subjects of these images can be anything from everyday objects to nature or even stars and galaxies, depending on the equipment used and the purpose of the photograph.
There are several branches of photography such as wildlife photography, food photography, fashion photography, photojournalism, etc. In this article, we will be discussing a very specific branch of photography which is underwater photography, what it is, the job and career options available in it and the kind of salary one can expect.
What is underwater photography?
Underwater photography is a branch of photography that involves the capturing of pictures underwater as the name suggests. The subjects of these pictures may include marine creatures, marine plants, and animals, coral reefs underwater scenarios like sunken ships, the effect of sunlight underwater, etc.
Underwater photography may also include shooting videos underwater.
What are the requirements and skills?
The first and most important requirement to become an underwater photographer is to be a qualified SCUBA diver. It is a prerequisite for entering this field as all of the work is done underwater and photographers may need to spend long periods of time underwater at a stretch.
A good place to train as a diver may be the Professional Association of Diving Instructors or PADI. A course in diving and snorkeling could last for 3 to 4 days. However, the course must be done through an accredited organization.
In such courses, the candidates are taught the basics and proper scuba technique safety procedures.
Another obvious requirement is the skill of photography. Hence, it is better to pursue a degree in photography. Now a day, many colleges and universities offer diploma and degree courses in photography.
This is necessary, not only for the skills in photography but also for the knowledge of knowing how to use different cameras and equipment. Having a degree with a marine background is also appreciated but not compulsory.
Listed below are some of the most reputed colleges providing courses in photography.
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- Yale University – School of Art
- Rochester Institute of Technology – College of Imaging Arts & Sciences
- University of Arizona – College of Fine Arts – Photography Division
- Washington University in St. Louis – Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
- Tisch School of the Arts (NYU)
- Delhi School of Photography, New Delhi
- National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad
- Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University, Hyderabad
- Vevey School of Photography, Switzerland
There are very few institutions and schools that offer courses specifically for underwater photography. Most of it is about how to select and handle the equipment, create lighting in the circumstances underwater, and how to choose the subject for your photograph. These courses are again or not compulsory but appreciated.
Other than all this, the aspirant must be physically fit and willing to travel a lot and spend long hours underwater for his or her projects. There are many pressure changes underwater and hence the divers must be in good health in order to withstand them.
The photographer should have a good sense of lighting and color contrasts, especially in such unusual situations, and that too, naturally.
Underwater photography is one of the most unique career options in the world. To be successful in this career, it is important to have more following and exposure. Here, social media platforms like Instagram or blogs can come in handy. An aspirant must also have an impressive, online portfolio in order to attract potential clients.
Some companies do higher underwater photographers. However, most people in this field choose to be freelancers and work for magazines or channels like National Geographic or Discovery Channel.
It is always advised to take photography courses and learn how to use a camera and click photographs before taking a scuba diving course. This would make the journey of an underwater photographer smoother as one of the two main requirements is easily fulfilled beforehand.
It is after getting a scuba diving certification that an underwater photographer can start looking for projects.
The equipment for underwater photography is different from normal photography as the camera is needed to be taken underwater. It is most advisable to practice photography with a normal DSLR from Canon or Nikon and learn about the different aspects of photography, white balance, exposure, and generally how to operate a camera.
Cameras that are used for underwater photography may be sealed in watertight plastic containers. Sometimes special flashes may also be used when taking photographs. The equipment must be properly checked before diving so that it doesn’t get damaged by leaking.
Underwater photographers may also choose their specialties like clicking pictures of animals like fish or dolphins, underwater vegetation, pictures of underwater scenarios such as sunken ships, or even fashion photography underwater which is an upcoming field.
In the beginning, one may be paid much less than expected or maybe not even be paid at all. in such situations, it is always better to invest in the future by selling your photos at low cost to smaller publications in hopes of being discovered by major ones.
It is also always better to get more and more experience in order to become successful and be recognized in this business. Some corporations may also employ underwater photographers.
However, there is another option available other than freelancing or joining a company. One can always start their own underwater photography business by taking up projects based on an individualistic commission basis.
Underwater photography is a rough field and it is not very easy to find jobs here. You have to be brilliant in your profession in order to make a mark in the industry. Thus, perfection is the only key and perfection can only be achieved with a great amount of practice.
The following are some books that can give you tips and valuable insights about learning and perfecting the art of underwater photography.
- Advanced Underwater Photography: Techniques for Digital Photographers by Larry Gates
- Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera: The essential guide to creating engaging photos by Paul Colley
- Underwater Photography Masterclass by Alex Mustard
- Glass and Water: The Essential Guide to Freediving for Underwater Photography by Mark Harris
- Underwater Photography: Art and Techniques by Nick Robertson-Brown ARPS
- The Beginner’s Guide to Underwater Digital Photography by Larry Gates
- Water Light Time by David Doubilet
- Underwater Photography: A Pictorial Guide to Shooting Great Pictures by Larry Gates
- The Underwater Photographer by Martin Edge
- Underwater Photography by Tobias Friedrich
- The Underwater Photographer’s Guide: Practical tips on how to shoot like the pros by Richard Carey
- 700 Sharks into the Dark by Laurent Ballesta
- Jim Church’s Essential Guide to Composition by Jim Church
- Howard Hall’s Guide to Successful Underwater Photography by Howard Hall
Read more: Learn more about lucrative marine careers
Equipment required for underwater photography
Underwater photography may come across as quite expensive when it comes to equipment such as cameras and accessories. Standard cameras alone main cost more than a thousand dollars excluding the accessories. The following are some of the basic equipment required in an underwater photography kit.
- Macro + wide-angle lens
- Flat port + dome port and Dome port cover, dome port share
- Port extension, zoom gear, and dioptre (if it is required) for the WA lens
- Lens cleaning kit
- A couple of memory cards
- Focus light + focus light accessories
- Underwater Casing
- Colour Correcting Filters
- Underwater Flash/Strobes
- Sync Cords & Fibre Optic Cables
- Rechargeable Batteries
The most important piece of equipment is the camera. The following are some of the best cameras for underwater photography.
- Sony RX100 III
- Canon S120
- Canon EOS MARK III 5D
- Panasonic LX100
- Olympus MARK II
- Sony A711
- Sony NEX A6000
- GoPro HERO 6
- Canon G7X
- Nikon D810
- Canon A570
- Canon G9
- Nikon D90
- Nikon D300
- Nikon D300s
What is the pay like for an underwater photographer?
Underwater photography is not the most fruitful career when it comes to salaries. On average, the salary of an ordinary underwater photographer is about 32,000 dollars per year. Some professionals or experts may earn up to 60,000 dollars a year. The job growth until 2024 is predicted to be just about 3% for all photographers.
All in all, it can be said that underwater photography is a career for people driven by passion. It is one of the best careers for those who seek adventure in life.
The salary may not be the highest, but it certainly is one of the most unique careers that one can opt for. Any aspiring photographer should at least once try to explore this amazing field because it opens doors to a world that is beyond the sight of ordinary people.