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How To Take Pictures While Snorkeling


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Giulietta Diep



Welcome to the exciting world of snorkeling photography! Snorkeling is not only a fantastic way to explore the underwater realm, but it also provides a unique opportunity to capture stunning images of marine life. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, taking pictures while snorkeling can greatly enhance your underwater adventures and create lasting memories.


Snorkeling photography allows you to document the vibrant colors, fascinating creatures, and breathtaking landscapes that exist beneath the surface. From schools of tropical fish to mesmerizing coral reefs, the possibilities for capturing awe-inspiring images are endless. However, mastering the art of snorkeling photography requires a combination of proper equipment, knowledge, and technique.


In this article, we will guide you through the process of taking pictures while snorkeling and provide you with valuable tips and insights to make the most out of your underwater photography experience. Whether you are using a compact camera, a GoPro, or a DSLR with an underwater housing, the principles and techniques discussed here can be applied to enhance your skills and capture the beauty that lies beneath the waves.


So, let’s dive in and discover how to take amazing pictures while snorkeling!


Choosing the Right Snorkel Gear

Before you can begin your snorkeling photography adventure, it’s important to ensure that you have the right snorkel gear. Here are some factors to consider when choosing your equipment:

  • Mask: Opt for a mask that fits comfortably on your face and forms a tight seal to prevent water from entering. Look for a mask with a tempered glass lens for better clarity and a wide field of view to capture more of the underwater world.
  • Snorkel: A snorkel with a comfortable mouthpiece and a splash guard is essential. Consider a dry-top snorkel that prevents water from entering when submerged. This will allow you to focus on taking pictures without worrying about clearing the snorkel.
  • Fins: Choose fins that fit snugly and are comfortable to wear. The right pair of fins will help you swim efficiently, saving energy and allowing you to position yourself easily for photography. Look for fins with an open-heel design for added adjustability.
  • Floatation Devices: Depending on your comfort level and the depth of your snorkeling location, you may want to consider using a floatation device such as a snorkel vest or a float belt. These devices provide extra buoyancy and allow you to stay afloat while focusing on capturing photos.
  • Camera Mounts: If you plan on using a camera or a GoPro, ensure that your snorkel gear has suitable mounting options. Look for masks or snorkels with built-in camera mounts or invest in separate camera mounts that can securely attach your device to your gear.

It’s important to try out your snorkel gear before your snorkeling photography adventure to ensure proper fit and functionality. Being comfortable and confident in your equipment will ultimately enhance your overall experience and allow you to focus on capturing memorable underwater images.


Understanding the Basics of Snorkeling Photography

Snorkeling photography involves capturing images while snorkeling, which presents unique challenges and requires a basic understanding of photography principles. Here are some key concepts to keep in mind:

  • Composition: Composition refers to how you frame your subject and the elements you include in the image. Consider the rule of thirds, where you divide your frame into thirds horizontally and vertically, placing your subject along these lines or at their intersections. This creates a visually appealing and balanced composition.
  • Focus and Depth of Field: Achieving sharp focus is crucial in underwater photography. Set your camera to autofocus or manually focus on your subject. Additionally, pay attention to the depth of field, which refers to the portion of the image that appears in focus. Wide-angle shots generally have a larger depth of field, while macro shots have a shallow depth of field, blurring the background and focusing on small details.
  • Shutter Speed: The shutter speed determines how long the camera’s sensor is exposed to light. In snorkeling photography, a fast shutter speed is often necessary to freeze the motion of fish or other moving subjects. However, using slower shutter speeds can create beautiful motion blur effects in your images.
  • White Balance: Underwater environments can introduce color casts, such as a blue or green tint. Adjusting the white balance setting on your camera can help restore accurate colors. Experiment with different white balance presets or use custom white balance to achieve the desired color tones.
  • Exposure Compensation: The exposure compensation feature allows you to adjust the brightness of your images. Use positive compensation (+) to brighten an image and negative compensation (-) to darken it. This adjustment can be helpful in balancing exposure in challenging lighting situations.

Understanding these basic principles will lay the foundation for successful snorkeling photography. Experimenting with different techniques and camera settings will help you develop your own unique style and capture stunning underwater images.


Preparing Your Camera for Underwater Use

Before taking your camera underwater for snorkeling photography, it’s important to prepare it properly. Here are some essential steps to follow:

  • Waterproof Housing: If you’re using a camera that is not inherently waterproof, invest in a quality waterproof housing specifically designed for your camera model. The housing will protect your camera from water damage and allow you to operate the controls while underwater.
  • Seal Check: Before submerging your camera, perform a seal check on the housing to ensure it is properly sealed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to verify that all seals and O-rings are in good condition and free from debris. This will help prevent any water leakage while in use.
  • Anti-Fog Inserts: To prevent fogging inside the housing, insert anti-fog strips or silica gel packets. These help absorb moisture and maintain clear visibility. Make sure to change them regularly to maintain their effectiveness.
  • Secure Attachment: Ensure your camera is securely attached to the housing or mounting system. Double-check all connections and locks before entering the water to avoid any mishaps or accidental detachment.
  • Camera Settings: Adjust your camera settings according to the underwater environment. Switch to underwater or custom white balance mode to compensate for the different lighting conditions. Consider shooting in RAW format to have more flexibility in post-processing and retaining the maximum amount of image data.
  • Floatation Devices: Attach a floatation device to your camera or housing to prevent accidental loss. This will provide an extra layer of protection in case it slips from your hands while snorkeling or taking pictures.

Remember to practice using your camera and housing in a controlled environment before heading out for your snorkeling photography adventure. Familiarize yourself with the controls and settings to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience underwater.


Tips for Taking Clear and Vibrant Pictures

Snorkeling photography allows you to capture the beauty of the underwater world, but it can also be challenging due to the unique conditions. Here are some tips to help you take clear and vibrant pictures while snorkeling:

  • Get Close: To capture maximum detail and minimize the negative effects of water, try to get as close to your subject as possible. Use the zoom function on your camera or move closer underwater to fill the frame and eliminate any unnecessary distractions.
  • Shoot from Different Angles: Experiment with shooting from different angles to add variety to your images. Capture shots from below or slightly above the subject to create different perspectives and capture unique compositions.
  • Steady Your Shots: Keeping your camera steady while snorkeling can be challenging due to water movement. To minimize camera shake, use both hands to hold the camera and take advantage of any stable surfaces available, such as rocks or coral formations. Alternatively, you can use a tripod or a stabilizing device designed for underwater photography.
  • Use Natural Light: Take advantage of the natural light available underwater. Avoid using the camera’s built-in flash, as it can create harsh lighting and result in washed-out images or backscatter. Instead, try to position yourself in such a way that the natural light illuminates your subject beautifully.
  • Explore Different Depths: Different depths offer unique photo opportunities. Dive deeper to capture larger marine animals or swim shallower to focus on smaller marine life and corals. Remember to equalize your ears properly and be aware of your own limits when diving to greater depths.
  • Pay Attention to the Background: Be mindful of the background when composing your shots. Look for clean and uncluttered backgrounds that allow your subject to stand out. Avoid capturing distracting objects or other snorkelers in the frame.
  • Practice Patience and Observation: Underwater photography requires patience and keen observation. Take your time to study the behavior of marine life and identify interesting subjects. By observing and understanding their movements, you can anticipate the perfect moment to capture a captivating shot.
  • Take Multiple Shots and Experiment: Don’t rely on a single shot. Take multiple photos of your subject with different settings and compositions. Experiment with different camera settings, angles, and perspectives to find the best combination that showcases the beauty of the underwater world.

Remember, practice makes perfect. As you gain experience, you’ll develop your own techniques and style. Enjoy the process and have fun capturing the incredible underwater scenery!


Techniques for Capturing Marine Life

When snorkeling and photographing marine life, it’s important to approach the subject with care and respect for the underwater environment. Here are some techniques to help you capture stunning images of marine life:

  • Research and Identify: Familiarize yourself with the marine life in the area you’ll be snorkeling. Learn about the species you are likely to encounter, their behavior, and their habitats. This knowledge will help you anticipate their movements and capture better shots.
  • Be Patient and Stealthy: Take your time and approach marine life slowly and quietly. Sudden movements or disturbances can startle the animals and cause them to swim away. Be patient and wait for the right moment to capture them in their natural environment.
  • Focus on Details: In addition to capturing the overall scene, don’t forget to focus on the fascinating details of marine life. Macro photography is a great technique to capture the intricate patterns, textures, and colors of corals, shells, or small marine creatures.
  • Photograph Behavior and Interactions: Try to capture the natural behavior and interactions of marine life. Whether it’s a feeding frenzy, mating rituals, or playful interactions between species, these candid moments can make for captivating and storytelling images.
  • Shoot in Burst Mode: Marine life can be fast-moving, making it difficult to capture the perfect shot. Shoot in burst mode to capture a series of images in quick succession. This increases the chances of capturing the ideal moment and helps in achieving crisp and clear images.
  • Use a Fast Shutter Speed: To freeze the motion of fast-swimming fish and other marine creatures, use a fast shutter speed. This will help you avoid motion blur and capture sharp images. Experiment with different shutter speeds to find the optimal setting for the specific subjects you are photographing.
  • Add Perspective with Divers: When snorkeling in areas where scuba divers are present, incorporate them into your shots to add depth and perspective. This can showcase the scale of the marine life or create an interesting composition with the human element in the frame.
  • Respect Marine Life and Their Habitat: Remember to always prioritize the well-being of marine life. Do not disturb or touch any organisms, corals, or underwater structures. Practice responsible snorkeling by maintaining proper buoyancy control and avoiding excessive finning that can damage the delicate ecosystem.

Taking the time to observe marine life and applying these techniques will result in captivating images that bring the underwater world to life. Remember, as a snorkeler and photographer, you play an important role in promoting marine conservation and raising awareness about the beauty and fragility of our oceans.


Dealing with Lighting and Water Conditions

Lighting and water conditions can greatly impact the quality of your snorkeling photography. Here are some tips to help you handle different lighting and water conditions:

  • Avoid Midday Sun: The harsh overhead sunlight during midday can create strong shadows and high contrast, making it challenging to capture well-exposed images. If possible, snorkel and photograph during the early morning or late afternoon when the lighting is softer and more flattering.
  • Backlighting: Backlighting occurs when the subject is between your camera and the light source (such as the sun). While this can create a beautiful halo effect around the subject, it can also cause the subject to be underexposed. To handle backlighting, consider using fill flash to balance the exposure or adjusting your camera’s exposure compensation.
  • Utilize Natural Light Filters: Different depths and water conditions can affect the color and intensity of light underwater. To counteract the blue or green color cast, consider using color correction filters such as red or magenta filters. These filters help restore the natural colors of the underwater world, resulting in vibrant and well-balanced images.
  • Shoot from Above: When the water visibility is limited, shooting from above can help minimize the distortion caused by particles suspended in the water. Position yourself above the subject and shoot downwards to capture clearer and more detailed images.
  • Experiment with Silhouettes: In certain lighting conditions, capturing silhouettes can yield striking and dramatic images. Position the subject between your camera and a brightly lit background, and expose for the background. This will result in a darkened silhouette of the subject against a vibrant backdrop.
  • Adjust White Balance and Exposure: Underwater environments can introduce color shifts and varying light levels. Make use of your camera’s white balance settings and adjust them according to the water conditions. Additionally, modify your camera’s exposure settings to ensure optimal exposure for the specific lighting situation.
  • Stabilize Your Shots: In challenging water conditions with strong currents or surge, it can be difficult to keep your camera steady. To mitigate camera shake, hold onto a stable object or use the natural features of the environment to steady yourself. Alternatively, consider using a handheld stabilizer or a tripod designed for underwater photography.
  • Make Use of Ambient Light: When shooting in low-light conditions, embrace the available ambient light and use slower shutter speeds to capture the natural mood and atmosphere. Experiment with longer exposures to create dreamy and ethereal effects, emphasizing the motion of the water and the marine life.

By understanding how lighting and water conditions can affect your images and applying these techniques, you’ll be able to adapt to different situations and capture stunning snorkeling photography regardless of the environment.


Common Mistakes to Avoid while Snorkeling and Taking Pictures

Snorkeling and taking pictures underwater can be incredibly exciting, but it’s important to be mindful of a few common mistakes that can hinder your photography experience. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

  • Rushing: One of the biggest mistakes is rushing through the experience. Take your time to explore and observe the underwater world before you start taking pictures. Patience is key to capturing unique and memorable shots.
  • Forgetting to Check Settings: Before you start snapping photos, double-check your camera settings. Make sure your white balance, exposure compensation, and other relevant settings are properly adjusted for the underwater environment.
  • Not Getting Close Enough: Remember, water tends to distort and diminish visibility. To capture clear and detailed images, get as close to your subject as possible without causing any harm. Fill the frame with your subject to reduce the impact of water between you and your subject.
  • Moving Too Much: Excessive movement can create blurry images. Stay calm and maintain steady buoyancy control while you photograph. Slow and deliberate movements will help you capture sharp and well-focused shots.
  • Using Flash Improperly: Depending on the water conditions and the proximity of your subject, using the camera’s built-in flash may only enhance particles and backscatter in the water, resulting in unwanted glare and reduced image quality. Experiment with different flash settings or consider using ambient light for a more natural look.
  • Ignoring Composition: In the excitement of capturing marine life, it’s easy to forget about composition. Avoid centering your subject in every shot and experiment with the rule of thirds to create visually appealing and balanced compositions.
  • Not Taking Care of Equipment: Properly maintaining your snorkeling gear and camera equipment is essential. Rinse your gear with freshwater after each use to remove salt and sand. Dry your equipment thoroughly and store it in a safe and protective case to prevent damage.
  • Overediting in Post-Processing: While post-processing can enhance your images, it’s important not to go overboard with editing. Strive for natural-looking images and avoid excessive adjustments that can make the photos appear unrealistic.

By being mindful of these common mistakes and practicing proper techniques, you’ll be able to improve your snorkeling photography and capture stunning underwater images that truly showcase the beauty of the marine world.



Snorkeling photography offers a unique and captivating way to explore the wonders of the underwater world. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article, you can enhance your snorkeling experiences and capture stunning images that will bring back memories for years to come.


Choosing the right snorkel gear, understanding the basics of snorkeling photography, and properly preparing your camera are essential steps to ensure success. By taking the time to familiarize yourself with your equipment and the underwater environment, you’ll be able to overcome any challenges that may arise and maximize your photographic opportunities.


Remember to pay attention to lighting and water conditions, utilizing natural light and adjusting your camera settings accordingly. Additionally, applying the proper techniques for capturing marine life and avoiding common mistakes will help you create clear and vibrant images that truly showcase the beauty of the underwater world.


Above all, it’s important to snorkel responsibly and respect the marine life and their habitats. Take care not to disturb or harm the delicate ecosystem, as our actions have a profound impact on the environment. By promoting proper snorkeling etiquette and marine conservation, we can contribute to the preservation of these stunning underwater ecosystems for generations to come.


So, grab your snorkel gear, dive into the crystal-clear waters, and embark on your snorkeling photography adventure. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the underwater realm and capture moments that will forever remind you of the incredible diversity and splendor that lies beneath the waves.