Mastering Underwater Wildlife Photography in Poor Visibility


Underwater wildlife photography is a challenging yet rewarding pursuit for photographers. The beauty and diversity of marine life make it a captivating subject, but poor visibility can often hinder the photographer’s ability to capture stunning images. In this article, we will explore the techniques and equipment that can help photographers master underwater wildlife photography in poor visibility conditions.

Understanding Poor Visibility

Poor visibility underwater can be caused by various factors such as sedimentation, plankton blooms, or weather conditions. When the water is murky or filled with particles, it becomes challenging to capture clear and vibrant images. However, with the right approach and equipment, photographers can still achieve remarkable results.

Equipment for Underwater Wildlife Photography

To overcome the challenges of poor visibility, photographers need to invest in specialized equipment. Here are some essential items for underwater wildlife photography:

  • Camera Housing: A sturdy and reliable camera housing is crucial to protect your camera from water damage. Look for a housing that is designed for your specific camera model.
  • Wide-Angle Lens: A wide-angle lens allows you to capture a broader field of view, which is essential for underwater photography. Look for a lens with a wide aperture to let in more light.
  • Strobe or Flash: In poor visibility conditions, artificial lighting is essential to illuminate your subjects. Invest in a strobe or flash that is compatible with your camera and housing.
  • Color Correction Filters: Color correction filters help to restore natural colors in underwater images. These filters compensate for the loss of color caused by water absorption.
  • Dive Lights: Dive lights can be used to enhance visibility and illuminate your subjects. They are particularly useful when shooting in dark or low-light conditions.
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Techniques for Underwater Wildlife Photography in Poor Visibility

Get Close and Low

In poor visibility conditions, it is crucial to get as close to your subject as possible. By minimizing the distance between you and the subject, you can reduce the amount of water between the camera and the subject, resulting in clearer images. Additionally, shooting from a lower angle can help to minimize the amount of suspended particles in the frame.

Use Manual Focus

Auto-focus systems can struggle in poor visibility conditions, often hunting for focus and producing blurry images. Switching to manual focus allows you to have more control over the sharpness of your images. Take the time to practice and master manual focusing techniques before your underwater photography expedition.

Optimize Camera Settings

Adjusting your camera settings can significantly improve your results in poor visibility conditions. Here are some settings to consider:

  • ISO: Increase your ISO to allow for faster shutter speeds and reduce the risk of motion blur.
  • Aperture: Use a wider aperture to let in more light and create a shallower depth of field.
  • Shutter Speed: Increase your shutter speed to freeze the motion of fast-moving subjects.
  • White Balance: Set a custom white balance to compensate for the loss of color underwater.

Shoot in Burst Mode

Capturing a sharp image in poor visibility conditions can be challenging, especially when your subject is moving. Shooting in burst mode allows you to capture a series of images in quick succession, increasing the chances of getting a sharp and well-focused shot.


Post-processing plays a crucial role in enhancing underwater images taken in poor visibility conditions. Adjusting the levels, contrast, and sharpness can help bring out the details and colors in your images. Additionally, using specialized software or plugins for underwater photography can further enhance the visibility and vibrancy of your photos.

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Mastering underwater wildlife photography in poor visibility conditions requires a combination of skill, patience, and the right equipment. By understanding the challenges posed by poor visibility and implementing the techniques and equipment discussed in this article, photographers can capture stunning images of marine life. With practice and experience, photographers can overcome the limitations of poor visibility and create captivating underwater photographs.


  1. How can I improve visibility underwater?
    While you cannot control the natural conditions affecting visibility, you can improve your own visibility by using dive lights or torches to illuminate your subjects.
  2. What are some recommended wide-angle lenses for underwater photography?
    Some popular wide-angle lenses for underwater photography include the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED and the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM.
  3. Do I need to use color correction filters for underwater photography?
    While color correction filters are not mandatory, they can significantly improve the color accuracy of your underwater images by compensating for the loss of color caused by water absorption.
  4. What software or plugins are recommended for post-processing underwater images?
    Some popular software and plugins for post-processing underwater images include Adobe Lightroom, Capture One Pro, and the Nik Collection by DxO.