Underwater Photography 

An essential course in underwater photography, 
with theory, tips, examples and technical solutions.
By Dr J Floor Anthoni (1997-2005) 

This is an extensive and essential course in underwater photography, bringing together in one place all the known theory, extensive hands-on experience, many examples, tips and technical solutions, without going into commercial details. Taking photos under water is one of the most difficult branches of photography because the underwater world has such strange optical properties and is rather taxing on the photographer himself. By mastering the advice provided in this large primer, you will enhance your chances of success considerably, resulting in more enjoyment. Why re-invent the wheel? Welcome and good Luck!
Important dates in the history of underwater photography. (on this page)
Why would you like to take pictures under water? What knowledge, experience and skills do you need? What equipment? How do you manage your precious resources? How do weather, waves and wind affect your results? - and more general information. (12 pages)
Film and lens
What kind of film should you choose or are you going digital? How can images be manipulated and saved for posterity? What kind of lens to use? What effects to expect? (10 pages)
Water and light
How is the quality of the sunlight affected by the water and how does this affect under water photography? What are the techniques to capture both colour and under water mood? How to reduce scatter? Which are the best camera angles? (10 pages)
Mixed light
A help light such as a strobe or a movie light is often necessary to overcome the limitations of ambient light. This mixed lighting is often misunderstood, resulting in poor results. How can we use the colourful light of the strobe without destroying the underwater atmosphere afforded by ambient light? How to control your strobe light?  (11 pages)
Theory, technique and practice of macrophotography, enlarging the miniature world and getting really close. Aquarium photography. (12 pages)
Recognise the opportunities offered by the topography of the environment. How should you behave to maximise your luck? How to organise your diving.?(11 pages)
Nikonos cameras
The Nikonos RS camera has changed underwater photography forever and still is an awesome tool. Try to understand what you need in an underwater camera and how to use it. (9 pages)
A look at photographic gear and how to adapt it to your needs. O-rings, brackets, connectors, cables, lights. Don't be afraid to make your own. (in prep)
Digital Darkroom
Digital computer techniques have given us the sophisticated tools to make better images after shooting the film. This chapter teaches you the ins and outs of colour theory, colour spaces, digital photo processing, scanning, cleaning up, adapting contrast and tone, sharpening and blurring, compacting your images and much more. You will disadvantage yourself by missing out. (32 pages in 3 parts)
In addition to a thorough understanding of underwater photography as explained above, the movie maker must master a number of other faculties. Making a movie does not consist of just taking moving pictures. (4 pages)
Supporting documents Here are some supporting documents found on this web site:
  • unsharp.htm:  Solving wide angle unsharpness: calibrating a Super8 camera using Anthoni's illusive depth scale and a program to make one. (6 pages)
  • A printable version of the illusive depth scale (250KB) (1 page)
  • A sharpness scale for video: vidsharp.gif (250KB) (1 page)
  • More reading
    References to worthwhile books about underwater photography (on this page)
    What's new?
    Recent additions and changes to this photographic section (on this page).
    Photo library
    Visit our photographic stock library of selected photographs which contains but a small part of the images available from our photographic stock. E-mail us for specific requests. (separate section and growing)
    World links
    Photography Resources - Explore photography through the internet following this rich tapestry of links.
    Seapix - A basic underwater photography course and many pictures and links 
    Bjorn Jensen - Under water photos, links and a printable basic underwater photography course. 
    Underwater Photography Handbook - www.underwaterphotography.com. 'The global reference point for underwater photography, the main interface with u/w photo equipment manufacturers.' 
    UWP Underwater Photography web magazine by Peter Rowlands. Interesting and well done, with top-class photos. 
    www.stephen-frink.com  Stephen Frink's web site
    www.uwphotographyguide.com  practical advice from Scott Gietler, a keen UW photographer
    https://www.jenreviews.com/how-to-make-a-documentary/ How to make documentaries, a review by Jen Miller 
    Please e-mail the author for suggestions and corrections. Read tips for printing.
    -- Seafriends home -- Stock photo library index -- Seafriends site map --
    Rev 19971004, 2000212, 20000315,20000811,20020710,20020726,20031111,20040226, 20050420,20051013,20060425,20070712,20150622,20180409,

    Important dates in the history of underwater photography
    It's good to know what went before. Here is a list of events that were important to the history of underwater photography.

    More reading
    (Titles in blue are available from the Seafriends library
    Update June 2015
    With great sadness we discovered that most books of our library were given away to visitors, by the new management of Seafriends'  business. The books mentioned in this section are no longer available. However, the Seafriends website remains and will hopefully be expanded.

    Berwin, David and David Barber: Creative Techniques in Underwater Photography. 1982.
    Church, Jim and Cathy: Beginning underwater photography.1972.
    Church, Jim and Cathy: The Nikonos book. 1979.
    Rebikoff, Dimitri and Paul Cherney: Underwater Photography. 1965, 1975, AMPHOTO New York.
    Rozendaal, Ruud: Fotojacht onder de waterspiegel. (Dutch)1971.
    Time-Life: Life library of photography. 16 volumes, 1970.
    Townsend, Derek: Under water photography. 1971.
    Wu, Norbert: How to photograph under water. 1994. Stackpole Books.

    What's new?
    What has been added or changed recently:
    20070712 - The longest pages split into parts, for ease of access.
    20060425 - Extensive additions to the timeline above and the Rebikoff-Ivanoff correction lens added.
    20051108 - Suggestions from Mrs Myfanwy Borich applied to new chapters.
    20051026 - Movie and video, essential knowledge for underwater moviemaking. (4p)
    20051022 - Nikonos Cameras, what to expect of a good camera. Learn the limitations of digital. (9p)
    20051017 - Advanced underwater macrophotography (12p) and how to calibrate your lens for unsharpness (7p)
    20051013 - Opportunities chapter written (8p)
    20051011 - All chapters revised and added to.
    20051010 - Digital darkroom revised and smart sharpening/ blurring added and more.
    20051008 - Time table of important discoveries added to this page.
    20040226 - Small changes to all chapters. Camera angles added.
    20031111 - A new large chapter on advanced digital darkroom techniques.
    20020710 - All chapters updated. My mistakes. Controlling strobe exposure with the Nikonos RS.
    20020111 - Notes on exposure added and exposure diagram redrawn.
    20000811 - Started to put links in to other sites.
    20000801 - Accurate light extinction figures by wavelength, added in the water and light chapter.
    20000418 - Theoretical loss of light due to reflection added.
    20000328 - Performance graph of lithium vs alkaline batteries added.
    20000315 - Applied corrections suggested by Mrs Myfanwy Borich
    20000301 - Wrote the difficult chapter about mixed light photography.
    20000212 - Finally started to write this section after having been encouraged to do so by budding underwater photographers.