8 things you need to know about Underwater Photography

13 Nov

Before you continue reading, may I remind you that I’m neither a professional photographer nor underwater photographer, I’m just working for one – Ariffin Aris Visuals. I’ve tried taking pictures underwater when I scuba dive but I don’t think I have much patience to set-up the proper equipment and compose each shot. You’ll understand why after reading this post.

Camera underwater but subject NOT using point-and-shoot camera with Aquapac


Basically almost any cameras can take picture underwater with the creation of waterproof camera pack like this Aquapac. Even your camera phones can do the trick with the help of this. The difference will be your application like either just shooting for fun in a metre-deep swimming pool, taking home your beautiful memories of underwater creatures 15m beneath the sea or even shooting model with products for some artistic value. The results will be different too.

I took this in Bali using point-and-shoot with proper housing and red filter

Canon G11 with underwater housing

I started off with Sony Cybershot digital camera with underwater housing some 7 years ago when my husband bought for our scuba diving trips. It was loads of fun as it was much simpler where you just need to grease the O-ring. Then there was the red-filter in front of the lens to make the photos nicer. It gets complicated when the strobes (underwater flash lights) came in and he migrated to DSLR. Realizing his passion and huge amount of  ‘investment’ that he put in photography, I strongly suggested that he turn his hobby into business. That is partly how Ariffin Aris Visuals was born.

Setting-up DSLR Underwater Housing

Underwater photographers with their underwater camera set-ups

You can see from this picture how complicated his underwater housing is and the preparation need to be taken before every shoot. I’ll just stick to underwater video for now.

Underwater Video Camera housing is much simpler, right?


If you are planning to stay a little bit longer underwater and move a little bit faster, you may want to consider to equip yourself with some basic snorkeling gears like the mask, snorkel & fins. It’ll definitely be easier to shoot in the sea with very low current compared to swimming pool as when you float and able to control your buoyancy, your pictures will definitely turn out better. Scuba-diving equipment will be the best as you are able to stay longer underwater, deeper and even if it rains up there, you can still shoot underwater. Please make sure that you are a certified diver before using the scuba-diving equipment. Safety IS a serious business.


Splish-splash with Aquapac

Close-up at the water slide

I love taking pictures at water parks and swimming pool. Looking back at all the silly faces and combination effects of the water make me happy. You can either take pictures on land looking into water (which most of you have done before even reading this blog), in the water looking out on land like in this photo below OR be underwater to capture underwater subjects. For this blog, I shall focus on swimming pool with model photography. Next round will be underwater photography with sea creatures, ok?

3-year-old kid underwater

For swimming pool, I would prefer it to be a heated one and use the least chlorine (some use the ozone technology). Heated pool would be best to shoot babies for between 5 – 15 minutes. Adults can benefit from it too and would be able to stay longer in the water and not waste much time during interval to warm the body up. Pool with less chlorine will help model to pose comfortably and prolong shooting time before the eyes become red and stingy.

Part of a choir group by Ariffin Aris

Another part of a choir group by Ariffin Aris


Pygmy Seahorse in Pulau Mabul by Ariffin Aris

I’ve been scuba-diving for almost 8 years now and I’ve always love the big creatures like Turtles, Sharks, Dolphins and soft corals until I went to Lembeh, North Sulawesi. I immediately fell in love with the macros or small tiny stuff, like the ones in this picture – Mandarin Fish and Pygmy Seahorse.

Tarachin getting reading with her underwater costumes

Then, there is another area of underwater photography which involves product and models. Trust me, I’ve worked with a few of them a not all models can be a good underwater models. Not all swimmers can be an underwater models. You do need some sort of basic underwater training before you can pose underwater comfortably, beautifully and most importantly Safely. Unlike on land photography which prefers a size 0 model (or negative better, hehehe), we would prefer underwater models to be a size 1 or 2 with character and distinct features. Models must know how to switch to different expressions.

Recently we had the opportunity to work with one of not many professional underwater model – Vanessa Tarachin. She has been underwater modeling for several years now and worked with many top photographer like Ed Freeman, Mallory Morrison, Steve Shea and of course now Ariffin Aris. It definitely takes more than a pretty face to produce an outstanding results. Tarachin comes in a package of elegance, creative mind and interesting personality.


Underwater Gypsy looking for her lost magic ball by Ariffin Aris

The sky is the limit and your fears are your limitations. Go wild, get creative and explore. This is one of the many parts I love most in my job – witnessing ideas come into live. Whether it was coming out with a concept, down to sourcing for props and execution, I love every bit of the process. Do you have any that you’d like to share? Don’t be surprised because we might just do it.


Beautiful Saree underwater

If you ask me, I like bright colors. Colorful and contrast when we shoot underwater. Satin, organza and silk would be perfect to work with underwater. Honestly, I’m not sacrificing my expensive silks for any underwater shoot. These materials are light weight and flow gracefully underwater. It is important for the model to be able to swim out for air in case of any emergency too.


Playing with underwater reflection

We have to admit, what are the chances that you get a perfect pool to produce results as you wish. Photoshop will help to do the job of touching-up here and there. Some effects will turn an ordinary picture into a fantabulous artwork!


There is nothing better than to work with a whole bunch of sporting crew who knows how to enjoy and have fun.

Satu Jiwa Choir


One Response to “8 things you need to know about Underwater Photography”


  1. Dive Culture’s 1st Batch of Open-Water Scuba-diving Students « Happy Hippie Avenue - December 13, 2012

    […] scuba-diving instructorship by SDI or some of his underwater photography activities & tips here. We even pair-up with Photo Travel, a photography tour agent to organize Underwater Photography […]

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