A Beginner’s Guide to Underwater Portrait Photography

Underwater Portrait Photography

A Beginner’s Guide to Underwater Portrait Photography with Brett Stanley

Being underwater can feel amazing! That weightlessness, the silence, the way our bodies move—it’s truly a unique place, and taking our cameras underwater is a great way to create images that are unique as well. But with any specialized genre of photography, there are a few techniques that you need to master to make the most of it, and of course specialized gear. I’m going to outline some of the skills and equipment needed to start your underwater adventure.

What is underwater portrait photography?

Underwater portrait photography covers a broad range of topics, from wildlife and scuba to sports, documentary, and even landscapes. But what I want to talk about is underwater portrait photography, which is the process of creating images that feature people in a posed setting underwater.

Just as a portrait photographer on land could shoot in a studio or on location, we have many options when it comes to shooting underwater. We can shoot in swimming pools or tanks, which is a controlled environment and what I call “underwater studio work,” or we can shoot in the ocean or a lake, for example, which is uncontrolled and termed “open water work.” Just like on land, these different environments can use similar techniques and gear, but they can require some different approaches as well, as I’ll outline below.

Where can I shoot underwater?

You can take underwater photographs anywhere there is water deep enough to submerge your camera. You can even shoot through the side of a fish tank. Like most photography there’s no right or wrong way to do this, but I’m going to limit the scope of this article to places where you can comfortably submerge yourself and your camera underwater.

underwater portrait photography

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