Understanding your underwater camera settings

Understanding your Underwater Camera Settings


I often see people asking about settings for their underwater camera. What settings for low light? What settings for wide-angle photography? Macro photography? Etc.


black and white underwater wreck photo

F5.6, 1/25th, ISO 250


People seem to like to memorize settings, and use them all the time. I can understand that, sometimes there's so many other things to worry about. Strobes, buoyancy, air, no deco time, finding subjects.


But I hope I can convince you to take a different route. Instead of memorizing settings, try to understand your settings. Then you can adjust to different scenarios.


Let's look at the big three, F-stops, Shutter speed, and ISO.


Click on the blue headings for more detailed write-ups, and I'll give you some things to think about:


Understanding F-Stops


  • How much depth of field do I really need?
  • At what apertures in my lens the sharpest?
  • Will the background look better if its blurred?


A small aperture was used for a narrow depth of field.


Understanding Shutter Speed


  • Do I need to stop motion? Prevent camera shake? Motion blur?
  • Do I want a blue background?


Understand ISO


  • How much grain can I handle?
  • Am I willing to risk a blurry photo? A noisy photo is always better than a blurry photo, unless that was your creative intention.


Shooting in Low light


Shooting in low light is the most difficult, you must really understand the trade-offs between F-stop, Shutter speed and ISO to get the best shot.


Don't expect to understand all of these settings at once, it takes time to fully understand and process all the variables. But once you do, your underwater photography will be able to grow much further.