How to Capture the Best Snorkeling Photos

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Expert: Cameron – I have been snorkeling for over two decades and have a certification with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. During this time, I have gone through many scenic vistas and have used several types of diving cameras.


Enjoying your snorkeling excursion is important when it comes to appreciating and relaxing on your vacation.

Being able to take professional and memorable photos of your time in the water can be simpler than most think, especially with the camera options right now within the market.

With these digital underwater cameras, you are able to edit your photos later for even more emphasis on what you were able to see while snorkeling.

I have used expensive and budget friendly waterproof cameras and have gotten amazing shots with both with little to no editing.

Below we will go through everything you need to consider when taking photos or video and some tips that I have come across to help you get the best out of your snorkeling excursion.

Taking the Best Snorkel Photos

You need gear if you are heading off to take some snorkeling photos, right?

Down below we will break down everything you should consider when making your purchasing decisions.

Choose a Camera

#1

Research Different Camera Types

When it comes to taking snorkeling photos, the type of camera you use can make a huge difference.

Newer diving cameras can produce some stunning shots, but they can be bulky and difficult to use underwater, especially when you are only intending to snorkel.

If you are looking for a more lightweight and user-friendly camera, you should consider going for a waterproof action camera, like a GoPro.

However, in a quick pinch, you can always consider an underwater disposable camera that will usually be found in most convenience stores near your snorkel spot.

Consider Your Budget

It is very important to consider your budget when choosing a camera when snorkeling.

Without a proper budget you accessories and everything can start adding up very quickly.

Diving cameras can be expensive, so if you’re on a tight budget, a waterproof action camera may be the best option.

Waterproof action cameras are generally much more affordable, so you can still get great photos without breaking the bank.

My most recent purchase came in below $45 US and came with many accessories!

Wolfang Camera Unboxing

Think About Your Needs

Wide-angle shots: Certain diving cameras can tailor to wide-angles but there are other options that give these angles within certain settings within the camera.

Underwater video: While you can have cameras that give crisp smooth video, there are less expensive options now that can give nearly the same quality.

Ease of use: This is the biggest thing to consider when using a camera underwater; turning the camera off and on, functioning through settings, and using it can be difficult when considering you are in the water.

Camera Accessories for Snorkeling – Considerations

Diver with Underwater Camera
#2

Invest in a Waterproof Case

It is important to consider a waterproof case depending on the environment you are using your camera in.

If you already have a high quality camera, consider purchasing a waterproof case for it.

While diving cameras and newer GoPro models are waterproof, when in saltwater you will want to consider investing in a case to ensure you do not damage anything.

Cases also allow you to add accessories to the camera and attach it to things like a snorkel mask, diving gimbal, or flotation device.

Look for High Quality Lenses

If you have an underwater camera or diving camera consider purchasing a high quality lens.

Look for lenses that are designed for underwater photography to ensure they are as clear and sharp as possible.

Consider Buying a Float

A float is a buoyancy device that attaches to your camera to help keep it afloat or at least at a certain depth level.

As you may have concluded, this will help you from having your camera sink to the bottom of wherever you are snorkeling or more importantly diving.

Underwater Camera Filters

These filters can range from colors for 10 to 80 feet of water.

They bring back in the red color that has been filtered out by the lack of sunlight.

This is because the light cannot penetrate certain depths of the water causing certain wavelengths to be filtered out, starting with red, then orange, then yellow according to the Journal of Marine Research.

I have taken video in depths of around 60 meters with and without the filter and the video quality benefits tremendously with a proper color filter.

Do a Test Run Before Taking Photos While Snorkeling

Seagull Walking on Shoreline During Winter

Test Your Case First

The best practice before using any case of any quality is to ensure that it is waterproof.

You can do this by getting a bucket of water or filling your sink and placing the case WITHOUT THE CAMERA INSIDE in the water.

Get a cup or something heavy to keep the case submerged and let it sit there for 15 minutes to an hour.

Afterwards, take the case out, dry it off thoroughly, and open it up to make sure there were no leaks while it was being tested.

I have personally purchased two cases that were of high quality and failed the submerging test; which was very important since at the time a GoPro needed an underwater case to be submerged.

Practice in Shallow Water

Practice taking photos in shallow water to get comfortable with your camera and make sure it’s working properly.

I have gone to a dive session and attempted to take a photo only to realize I had forgotten to format the card on the camera.

Unfortunately, I missed out on a beautiful shot of a sea turtle up close in the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia.

Familiarize Yourself with the Camera Settings

Take some time out to familiarize yourself with the camera settings before going diving or snorkeling.

This will give you an opportunity to adjust the brightness, contrast, and other settings beforehand.

I would not have known how to format that card I mentioned previously while underwater if I was unfamiliar with my settings.

Take Test Shots to Adjust Your Settings

Whale Shark Philippines

Taking test shots and videos then uploading them onto your computer to see if this is the base settings you want can save you the misfortune of having undesirable photos in the future.

I had set my camera to 720p thinking it would save on memory storage but what it cost me was shots that would have looked astounding in 1080p, the example below.  

Start Taking Snorkel Photos

Personally, I do not take photos while I am underwater, I take videos.

Videos allow you to capture the randomness of the sea life around you.

Later you can edit out the videos and take screenshots of the positions you like the best.

Every underwater photo you see on this page has been taken using this exact method.

Find the Right Light

Sea Turtle Philippines
Look for Natural Light

Natural light will create a soft and even illumination that will make your photo look better.

Place yourself in a position where the sunlight is coming from behind the subject if possible and you are not casting a shadow on them.

Avoid Harsh Shadows

Harsh shadows from yourself or others around can ruin your photo.

Make sure to position yourself in a way that will create a soft and even light.

Aim for Backlighting

Aim for backlighting by positioning yourself and the subject so that the natural light is coming from behind.

This will create a beautiful, soft light that will make your photos look stunning.

You can do this with a camera arm extension (selfie stick) or going underneath the subject facing the camera towards the surface of the water.

Get Close to the Action

Sea Turtle Philippines

Go for Wide-Angle Shots

Wide-angle shots will capture more of the underwater environment and will give your photos a sense of depth and scale.

Try to get as close to the subject as possible to really make the most of the wide-angle shots.

However, at times you will want to gain your distance if the marine life is large like a whale shark to get them all in the photo.

Move Closer to the Subject

This will help you capture more detail and will ensure that the subject is the focus of the photo.

Your eyes can deceive you in the distance that your camera will view; think of it like seeing how big the moon is and then taking a picture of it with your phone and it not being able to focus like how you see it yourself.

Consider the Background

Look for interesting backgrounds that will help make the photo more interesting and will draw the viewer’s eye to the subject.

Try to position yourself and the subject in a way that will make the background look interesting and will help make the photo more dynamic.

Backgrounds with a school of fish or colorful coral really makes the photo pop out to the viewer.

Use the Right Filters

There are several options depending on your needs while in the water.

Invest in a Color Correction Filter

As mentioned before, color correction filters will help correct the color distortion that can occur underwater and will help make sure that your photos look as good as possible.

Look for filters designed for underwater photography; you will be able to spot them if they start from shades of red flowing to purple.

Consider a Polarizing Filter

Polarizing filters are great for taking snorkeling photos in particular.

These filters will help reduce glare and will help make sure that your photos are as clear and sharp as possible.

Polarizing filters can also help enhance the colors in your photos, so they look more vibrant and lifelike.

Try Out Different Types of Filters

Filters run on the cheaper side of accessories depending on the camera you own.

Different filters will produce different effects, so it’s important to experiment and find out which ones work best for your needs.

Edit and Share Your Snorkel Photos

Since I only take video, I at a minimum need some kind of software to screenshot the photo I want from the video.

Find the Right Editing Software

Sea Turtle Murky Water
Research Different Software Options

Look around for different software options to find one that fits your budget and needs.

Most all software provide an exuberant number of options and include editing filters so you would not have to license any out.

Check if the camera you purchased has any included editing software.

There are also options that come with every Mac computer, Windows computer, and even your phone that are FREE!

Do not feel like you need to break the bank on software because it can get expensive.

Read Reviews Before Buying

Reviews will give you an idea of how easy the software is to use and how effective it is at helping you edit your photos.

Some software offers free trials as well so test before you buy!

Make Your Photos Pop

Freediving Snorkeler

Do not feel defeated if you cannot get the photo exactly how you intend.

Understand that editing photos is a skill and requires trial and error.

Utilize Contrast and Color

Adjust the contrast and color of your photos to make them look more vibrant and lifelike.

Every day will provide different light and location, experiment with different settings to find out which ones will make your photos look the best.

Crop and Adjust the Orientation

Cropping will help you remove any unwanted elements from the photo and will help make the subject the focus of the photo.

Adjusting the orientation will help you find the best angle to display the photo.

Sharpen for Clarity

Adjust the sharpness of the photo to make sure it looks as sharp and clear as possible.

This will help make your photos look more professional and will help make them stand out.

Summary

When taking snorkeling photos, make sure to research and prepare. Research the best cameras and accessories, practice with the camera in shallow water, and familiarize yourself with the camera settings.

Look for the best light, get close to the subject, and use the right filters.

Find the right editing software, make your photos pop, and share them with the world.

Above everything make sure to stay a safe distance away from any wild animals and be respectful of their habitat.

Take some deep breaths and keep going focus on enjoying the experience and enjoy the wonderful marine vistas!


[Sources and References]

Ivanoff, Alexandre, and Talbot H. Waterman. “Factors, Mainly Depth and Wavelength, Affecting the Degree of Underwater Light Polarization.” EliScholar, elischolar.library.yale.edu/journal_of_marine_research/898/. Accessed 23 May 2023.

[Image Attribution and Licensing]

Featured Image by Dennis
#1 Image by StockSnap
#2 Image by David Mark