Underwater photography - Getting better results

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With the ever growing availability of digital cameras and the availability of reasonably priced underwater housings for these cameras more and more divers decide to start taking pictures under water. Underwater photography is in principle not different from photography on land but the circumstances under water make that the results are not what is expected.  Often the idea is that this is the best that this camera can deliver. That is definitely not true. With a basic point & shoot camera without an external strobe it is possible to get better results than the green images that most divers bring to shore.

The pictures in this article are made with a simple camera, the Sealife DC500 in an underwater housing that is sold together with that camera and without using an external flash. The only setting this camera has is automatic exposure. There is a special setting for underwater pictures but that setting is not used because I am not happy with the results of this custom setting.

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What are the circumstances that make taking pictures under water so difficult?

  1. You are not on firm ground. Instead you are drifting in the water.
  2. The deeper you are the less color is left. Water acts as a filter and the first color to go is red. That is the reason your pictures look greenish.
  3. Water is less transparent than air.

The green pictures you get are a truthful representation of the reality under water even though you were seeing more color than is visible in the picture. That is because your brain compensates for the lack of red and other colors.
The above picture is impacted by all these factors. This picture is made at a depth of 10 meters on a sunny day. The picture is not sharp (1), there is a lack of color (2) and the contrast is low (3).

What can you do to get a better result??