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Using an Underwater Digital Camera

With waterproof housings now available for many of the popular digital cameras, underwater photography is now a past-time available to many, but what do you need to know about using an underwater digital camera?

Before taking underwater photographs there are two main considerations to plan for. One is the safety and integrity of the camera and the other is the difference in light, contrast and color you’ll find under the sea.

Underwater Digital Camera Equipment

It is no longer necessary to invest in an amphibious camera to take photos underwater. Many point and shoot digital cameras and DSLR models can be protected by watertight housings, which mean they can be safely used under water.

Be sure to always use a wrist strap when using your digital camera underwater. It is very easy to drop a camera underwater and very difficult to retrieve it.

You may want to invest in a large capacity SD or memory card for your digital camera for use underwater. You cannot switch cards over once the camera is encased in the waterproof housing and you will not want to ruin your dive experience by having to surface regularly just to reload the camera. Of course, you can instantly review the photographs you take using the LCD viewing screen and delete those which you don’t like - this will mean your storage media is full of only the very best images. But it also means you are using valuable air to review your pictures, air which could be used in taking additional pictures.

In very shallow water your underwater digital camera should be capable of taking acceptable images, but if you dive to any depth be aware that the water absorbs color, making everything take on a different, darker hue. It is possible to compensate for this using the camera’s settings, but that is dependent on the model of digital camera you own. Some form of lighting will almost certainly be required, be it flash or strobe.

Underwater Photography

Because the red and orange elements of natural light are absorbed by water it can be very difficult to capture color-true images when taking photos underwater. This problem can be overcome by getting as close as possible to the subject of the photograph - without putting yourself in danger.

The use of the built in flash can provide the missing light components and improve the final color of the images although it may startle the subjects of the photographs.

One of the enormous advantages digital photography has over film photography is the ability the photographer has to digitally alter images using computer programs such as Photoshop. Color balance can be restored and contrast improved to compensate for the difficult conditions underwater photography presents.

Using an underwater digital camera is fun and rewarding, but never forget personal safety. Remain conscious of your location and surroundings and don’t let the distraction of the camera allow you to drift into unsafe areas. Don’t lose track of time - your air supply is as important as your camera. If you are diving in unknown waters or at depth, always dive with a buddy and make sure your dive buddy is camera free and paying attention to the dive itself.