Underwater Photography: Helpful Tips for Using Manual Mode

If you are shooting underwater photography, it is actually recommended that you use full manual mode, if your camera is equipped with that feature. You will have to set the aperture and shutter speed yourself, but the quality of pictures that you will get will be more than worth it. If you are using full manual mode, you should also be using an external strobe light. The only downside to using full manual mode is that you may lose TTL, which means you will not be able to use the LCD display on your digital camera.

Basically, when shooting in full manual mode, you will have full control of your camera and its features. There are no custom menu settings for underwater photography. It will take some practice on your part until you master the full manual mode and learn which settings work in which depth. The guideline below will go over a few tips and techniques to keep in mind when using manual mode for underwater photography.

ISO Settings

If you are using full manual mode for underwater photography, you will want to go with the base ISO settings of the camera. You should also be using the maximum shutter sync speed and single spot focus. You will need to adjust the f-stop, depending on what kind of depth you are taking your underwater shots in. If you are shooting small fish or small objects, you will want to shoot at a small aperture, such as F29. If you are shooting with supermacro, you should use f-stop until an aperture of F50.

Wide Angle Underwater Photography

If you are taking wide angle underwater shots, you will want to use the base ISO, or an ISO of 100 or 200. You should set your camera to the maximum number of focus points. Depending on the depth you are in and the distance of the object you're shooting, you can shoot with a different f-stop. If you are approximately two feet away from an object, you should use an aperture of F8. If you are approximately 1 feet away from the object you want to take a shot of, you should use an aperture of F11. If you wish to take a close up shot, you should use an aperture of F22. One thing to note is that if you are not experienced with underwater photography or are not comfortable changing the settings of your digital camera, it is not recommended that you use aperture and shutter priority mode.


If you are taking underwater photographs at night, there will not be much, if all, ambient light, except for the dive light. To help deal with this problem, you should use a fast shutter speed and adjust the aperture until you get the right exposure. If you are in full manual mode and are shooting in ambient light, you should use gray, white or a silver object while shooting.

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