Underwater imaging or photography is the process of taking photographs while under water. It is usually done while scuba diving, but can be done while diving on surface supply, snorkeling, swimming, from a submersible or remotely operated underwater vehicle, or from automated cameras lowered from the surface.
Underwater photography can also be categorised as an art form and a method for recording data. Successful underwater imaging is usually done with specialized equipment and techniques. However, it offers exciting and rare photographic opportunities. Animals such as fish and marine mammals are common subjects, but photographers also pursue shipwrecks, submerged cave systems, underwater “landscapes”, invertebrates, seaweeds, geological features, and portraits of fellow divers.
The primary obstacle faced by underwater photographers is the loss of color and contrast when submerged to any significant depth. The longer wavelengths of sunlight (such as red or orange) are absorbed quickly by the surrounding water, so even to the naked eye everything appears blue-green. The loss of color increases not only vertically through the water column, but also horizontally, so subjects farther away from the camera also appear colorless and indistinct. This effect occurs in apparently clear water, such as that found around tropical coral reefs.
Underwater photographers solve this problem by combining two techniques. The first is to get the camera as close to the photographic subject as possible, minimizing the horizontal loss of color. Many serious underwater photographers consider any more than about one yard or meter unacceptable. The second technique is the use of a flash to restore colour lost to depth. Fill flash, used effectively, “paints” in missing colors by providing full-spectrum visible light to the overall exposure.
Another environmental effect is range of visibility. The water is seldom optimally clear, and the dissolved and suspended matter can reduce visibility by both absorption and scattering of light.