Beginners tips for underwater photography

Want to try out underwater photography? Not really sure where to start?

I didn’t either. I first started with an underwater compact camera. The quality was shockingly bad, but I tried anyway. I hired a private pool not even thinking about light and took my friend. It was a hard learning curve. The quality of the images was something that literally upset me in comparison to my DSLR, the light was awful making the photographs even worse, and overall I had wasted my money, massively.

Admittedly I gave up for a few years.

Then I saw those plastic bag type kits on sale for only £60.00, so I bought it on a whim. I remembered the situation I had with light before so I asked my aunt if I could use her outdoor swimming pool (in the summer of course!) and tried some underwater photography again. It was much better than the compact camera I’ll give it that! Eventually it did leak but I noticed before it did any damage.

Always check them before your shoot without your camera inside!

The plastic bag cases helped me learn it was definitely worth investing in a case later on. It gave me all sorts of new creative outlets and helped me through the learning curves of underwater photography.

Some tips for beginners of underwater photography.

  1. Always use an indoor swimming pool or tank, models get cold outside quickly, and the chlorine makes the photographs very foggy, meaning you lose clarity.

  2. Lot’s of towns have private hire swimming pools, indoor ones.

  3. Look for UV cleaned swimming pools rather than chlorine, no fog!

  4. Plastic bag cases are absolutely fine to start with, just be aware of your lens, how you hold the trunk that covers your lens and set all your settings before going under. I suggest putting your shutter speed at least 200, f-stop as low as possible and your ISO on auto.

  5. Get a model who is comfortable underwater.

  6. Try and limit your time to 1-2 hours. You’ll be surprised how quickly you and your model tire.

Here are some photographs I took with the compact camera , my plastic bag and then my Ikelite case; you can see the dramatic difference in quality even just between the compact camera and the plastic bag.



So this was my first ever underwater shoot, over 10 years ago now with a rubbish little compact camera which was completely waterproof. No case, nothing fancy just a good old point and shoot.

My model was however amazing obviously. Pulling the most beautiful shapes and poses.

It’s also a shoot where I wish I had thought more about lighting and background too. The tile on the pool isn’t great.

Got the itch though!

rekha garton underwater photography


BLOODY HELL, right?!

Clarity, yes.

Detail, yes.

Colour, bang on.

Background? No problem.

I do use a swimming pool now which is in a big kind of greenhouse so light it never an issue obviously unless it’s dark, though one day I’d like to use strobes potentially.

The swimming pool also uses UV light to clean the water rather than much chlorine and it’s heated so all year round underwater photoshoots.

My main issue is when people have been in before us and have clearly been wearing a lot of body moisturiser/oil/make up and it clouds the water up a bit which sucks on a cloudy day. Sunshine seems to eliminate this fairly well.

Like I said it’s been a massive, long haul and expensive learning curve that’s for sure!

It’s hard for beginners especially as there isn’t a ton of info out there on Underwater photography that specialises in portrait/people. I hope I’ve helped some of you.

End of the day a bag is a pretty good starting point, much cheaper than buying a GoPro and much much cheaper than an Ikelite case. But if you get the itch like I did at least you know where to head!



This was my first underwater bag for my camera. Like a glorified plastic case basically. My aunt had an outdoor swimming pool so I used that one summer with my cousin who again was a fantastic model.

The clarity is MUCH better but still a touch hazy. The colours are blindingly better too. Chlorine was the issue primarily, it causes a great deal of haze so this was the furthest I could be away from her without my camera struggling greatly to focus on her.

Putting a backdrop in was also difficult due to the whirring of pumps moving it.