Photography Cheat Sheet: How to Shoot Better Photos Underwater

With the help of today’s photography cheat sheet, you’ll be able to adequately prepare for underwater photography using your Mirrorless camera.

Ever wondered how you can get gorgeous underwater photos using your Mirrorless camera? There are actually many things to consider and keep in mind, including gear requirements, the best shooting mode, and using flash and other lighting options. Canon Asia comes to our rescue with some tips in their photography cheat sheet.

Canon Asia may have specified the quick tips below for Mirrorless cameras, but they are useful regardless of what camera you use. Given the popularity of Mirrorless cameras today, however, we can see why this cheat sheet was especially dedicated to these cameras.

Waterproof case

Whatever your camera, you’ll first need a waterproof case before you can shoot underwater. Take note of the options based on your camera model and its specifications, checking out reviews if necessary to get the best case for your Mirrorless camera. Some cameras may be waterproof to some degree, but to be on the safe side and allow you to go deeper in the waters, a waterproof case is your best bet.

Shooting mode

Next, you have two options when it comes to the shooting mode best for underwater photography: Shutter Priority (Tv) and Manual (M). If you already have a solid understanding of how to freeze your shot with high shutter speed, or blur it with low shutter speed, choose this mode. Even better, you can shoot in Manual mode if you are already comfortable with taking control of all the camera settings so you can experiment with your own personal style, even with underwater photography.

White balance

White balance is another technical consideration for making sure your underwater snaps have accurate colors. Set the white balance to Daylight or Auto to cancel out the warm light captured by the camera when shooting in shallow waters or with underwater flash. In deeper waters, you can use the Custom setting instead and a Dive Slate (a grey card) as a reference  point for white balance. Don’t forget to shoot in RAW so you’ll be able to correct the white balance in post later.

Light & ISO settings

The cheat sheet also includes an important note that light gets weaker as it travels through water. Therefore, strobes become practically useless for photographing subjects further than two meters away in bad visibility. In this case, move closer to your subject to help decrease backscatters. Set your ISO to 100 or 200 if you’re shooting in daylight, and ISO 800 and above for nighttime shoots. Adjust as necessary based on the amount of light filtering through your underwater scene.

Exposure meter

Before going on a deep-dive shoot, don’t forget to take some underwater shots to check for the right exposure and adjust the exposure meter as necessary. It’s also recommended to make adjustments whenever you go to a new location (every 5-10 ft).


You’ll likely need to use flash when shooting in deeper water. Make sure to check if there are any corals or protruding structures that will get in the way between your strobes and your subject. Also, adjust the position of the strobes to make sure they properly illuminate your subject. Don’t shine strong light on marine animals for longer than their comfort level.

Need more photography tips and tricks like this? Don’t forget to check out our photography cheat sheet collection to find more that will come in handy for your next shoot and projects!

Cover photo by Tobias Friedrich. Used with Creative Commons permission.