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Underwater Photography Tips

Woohoo. You’re here. Reading my world. 

Incredibly humbled that photographing – doing what I love more then anything, had me taking over Canon’s instagram feed. For my first post, I thought it appropriate I share some of these tips. So here I go. Let me know if you have any questions. As photographers it’s so important that we help each other grow. 

Invest in the right gear:

I use Canon and Aquatech everything.  My favourite Body is the Canon 5D Mark IV with lenses 35mm f/1.4L ii lens and  EF 14mm 2.8L . I generally shoot all my marine life images with the 35mm prime and turtle tour images with the wider angel 14mm prime. Most water photographers swear by the 16-35mm lens; but I really love to connect and photograph magic and portraits exactly as I see and feel them. If I was photographing on the same lens as everyone else, I guess my images would be similar. It’s important to use the lens that feels right to you not copy what everyone else is doing. Not only will you develop your own style but enjoy it a lot more.

Aquatech water housings are the best in the business. When you’re taking an expensive kit in the ocean you need it to be reliable, light and easy to use. The have spent a lot of time and money designing state of the art housings for Canon cameras. I use a flat port for the 35mm prime and a dome port for the 14mm prime. Look after your ports. Saltwater and sand will stretch the glass. So make sure you wash with cold water as soon as you get out. Look after them, little scratches will severely affect the quality of your photos.

Play with light

–       Natural light is key. My favourite time to photograph people is between 8am-10am; or 3-Dusk. Water is always calmest in the mornings and you will get nice soft natural light. Make sure the sun is always behind you. 

–       Keep your ISO low. I can’t stress this enough, unless you want lots of backscatter and grain in your images. The higher your ISO goes, the more noise you attract. I try to shoot with ISO 100. On cloudy days though I often lift it higher to 400-640. 

Underwater photography buoyancy control

–       Wear a weight-belt or practice how to master buoyancy control (emptying lungs to sink more). More important then fins and a mask to me is a weightbelt.    

Signature style

I’m forever getting advice which I love and appreciate, but it’s so important to not shoot images the same as everyone else. Photograph what you want to see. What makes you happy,  and not what others want to see. 


With a wedding photography background when I first started photographing underwater, I shot all in AV mode. Once I changed to Manual I never looked back, and now only shoot in Manual. This gives me full control over the way my photographs turnout. I’m constantly changing settings underwater, to ensure the best post production – so working with in Manual is a no brainer. Shooting in manual also has dramatically reduced my post production editing. My images generally already look perfect with natural colours as raw images, I normally just make minor changes to the White balance in editing.


I always shoot in RAW. You never know what could happen under the water, and it would be upsetting to have a magical photograph opportunity present itself and then go home to edit as a JPEG. RAW gives you the best flexibility in post-production in Lightroom or Photoshop and there is no compression to the files.

The only instance I have shot in JPEG’s is when I’m at an event , campaign or shooting overseas and they require the images immediately.


When using the 35mm prime lens I like to shoot with an aperture of f/2.8. Going up sometimes to f/3.2. When shooting with the 14mm prime lens I push my aperture up to f/4.0 or f/5.6 to give myself more breathing room and show the subject nice and sharp in all it’s beauty.

Woohoo you made it through to the end of my first post. Thank you so much, If you’re keen to come put some of this to practice send me a message to find out about my upcoming workshops. 

Aroa Nui xxx

Charlotte Piho

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