6 Tried-and-True Tips for Photographing Fish on Your Next Dive

How to do underwater photography like a pro

If you own an underwater camera system, snagging some photographs of life under the sea can really take your next diving trip to the next level. With aquatic species taking an endless variety of shapes and color patterns and exhibiting fascinating behaviors, they undoubtedly make for wonderful photographic subjects, no matter where your trip takes you.

As you’d expect, any kind of nature photography requires some quick thinking on your feet, so achieving quality shots can be tricky. That’s why it’s necessary to develop a strategy to ensure you’re getting the best shots possible. While many photographers and videographers utilize their own personal tips, we feel it’s best to integrate a variety of techniques to help achieve your goal.

Courtesy of our team with over 35 years of diving, instruction, and underwater photography experience, here are six helpful tips for taking amazing photos of aquatic life that you’ll be proud to bring back from your excursion.

1. Stay at a neutrally buoyant position

We’ve noticed that too many underwater photographers overlook or underestimate the importance of good diving techniques. One of the more important aspects of proper diving is being able to quickly achieve neutral buoyancy, and then to be able to trim your buoyancy as desired by using the air in your lungs. This will make it so much easier to focus on your shooting technique.

2. Make a mental map of your path and surroundings

When encountering a potential subject, surveil your surroundings and map out your approach to achieving your desired shooting position. Examine the floor for rocks, strands of kelp, sea urchins, or perhaps a structure on a wreck that might impede your progress.

3. Select a shooting position that does not frighten your subject

Remain at a specific distance away from where the subject is. Make sure the distance is comfortable enough to organize your camera settings and allows your subject enough space to move without it turning away or retreating to a hiding place.

4. Determine your desired type of shot in advance so that you’re ready to shoot immediately

Set your aperture, shutter speed, ISO and strobe power in advance. Setting these controls before nearing the subject helps minimize movements that might cause the subject to retreat. Determine the shot beforehand so that you’re ready to compose and shoot immediately. When deciding on types of shots, here are five options to consider:

  • Identification shots where the subject’s body is parallel to the sensor.
  • Animated shots with the fish facing toward the lens at a pleasing angle, usually between 15 and 45 degrees.
  • Subject in its natural environment, including elements that allow viewers to instantly recognize the ocean setting.
  • Shots that reveal behavior, including courtship, mating or spawning, cleaning, and predation.
  • Close up shots of various body parts, usually the face or mouth.

Sometimes fish can be great at posing. Other times, not so much. The window of opportunity is short, so be ready as soon as possible once you’re in shooting position and you’ve selected your shot styles.

5. Pay close attention to the focus of your shot

If a subject’s eye is in the frame, make sure it is in razor sharp focus. Out of focus eyes are unflattering.

6. Vary up your shots with both horizontal and vertical frames

It’s common for most underwater photography to be framed horizontally, most likely because it’s easier to hold most camera systems and position strobes in that orientation. But that’s not to say that it’s any more or less likely to create a more pleasing photo than one with a vertical frame.


Hopefully, these tips will help you develop your own style and capture the amazing photos you’ve always dreamed of taking. For more tips and information, please contact the experienced dive travel agents at Ultimate Dive Travel and ask them about scuba diving trips that cater to underwater photography enthusiasts.