Lighting your Subject Underwater

Underwater Lighting
By Scott Gietler

To advance in underwater photography, it helps to have a thorough understanding of lighting and the properties of water, which we will review below.


Properties of Water

Shooting underwater has its challenges, due to the properties of water. Understanding these properties is essential to understand the basics of underwater photography.


  • The refractive index of water is different than air, which makes judging distances difficult. Objects viewed through your mask can appear 25% larger than they really are, due to the refractive index difference.

  • Water absorbs light. Light levels quickly drop as you get deeper in water. In addition, red is absorbed faster than blues. See loss of color underwater section

  • Water sucks contrast and sharpness in photos. This is why you must always get as close as possible to your subject.


Quality of Light


The light that creates your exposure will come from your strobes, dive lights, focus lights, and the sun. People often talk about the "quality" of light, which depends on these 4 factors listed below, no matter what the source is:


  • Amount of light. It is generally more difficult to shoot in low light, although low light can be helpful for some creative effects such as panning or showing motion.

  • Color of the light

  • Direction of light

  • Amount of diffusion or softness

All of these are discussed in more detail in the chapter subsections.


Strobe Positioning

Be sure to check out our tutorial series on Underwater Strobe Positioning.


Ambient Light

Read our series of articles focusing on Ambient Light, and blending ambient light with strobe lighting.


A mixture of ambient and strobe lighting brings life to this image shot in the Yucatan Cenotes, Mexico. Sony a7R II with Sony 28mm lens + fisheye converter. ISO 6400, f/4.5, 1/25.


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Underwater photography is a

Underwater photography is a part of art.And most of the valuable things for this is composition.In your composition you have to keep in min about how to use light in helps to have a thorough understanding of lighting and the properties of water.fettabsaugung as a part of our company,I can suggest you that before starting underwater photography please know details about properties of water.

It would be interesting to

It would be interesting to see how apartments to their pool lighting. Some apartment complexes have a really nice pool area and is great for parties and community events. I don't know if features the pools that are available and each apartment. I would be interested to know more about this.

these is a really interested

these is a really interested research i like it!!!

I still shoot film so this

I still shoot film so this may be a difficult question:
My Ikelite Substrobe 200 has a Guide number of 38 with 100 ISO film.
I asked Ikelite what the GN would be if I used 50 ISO film.
They told me 19.
Can this be? This seems to be a huge difference.
Can anyone offer some comments other than "try it and see what the results are?"
Thanks for the input.

Since ISO 50 requires twice

Since ISO 50 requires twice as much light as ISO 100 film for the same exposure, I believe that halving the guide number is correct.

Your articles are very

Your articles are very informative! Do you use TTL with the d300 and the sea & sea housing?
I have had no luck with the sea & sea ttl converter.

Mine works perfectly. I had

Mine works perfectly. I had to go through the first TTL converters, models 1 & 2, however, until I obtained model #3 which has been wonderful. Marcia

hey Stu, the Sea & Sea TTL

hey Stu, the Sea & Sea TTL converter works great for me, email me with the details of your problems 

Scott Gietler Owner/Editor, Underwater Photography Guide & Bluewater Photo

I really find yr website

I really find yr website fantastic reference and ended up printing out most of the pages to bring with me for my next dive trip ;-)

I hv also forwarded yr link to my group of divers and crazy newbie photographers.
I will keep logging in to check for updates often....great Job Scott and thanks for being such a great help!

P/S : if u include a step by step guide on how to adjust strobe lights it would be really super! e.g INON manuals are not the easiest thing to decipher for us newbies.

I have to agree some info on

I have to agree some info on strobes and adjusting as well as do's and don'ts for us newbie strobe users would be good.