Guide to Underwater Photography with Your Mobile Phone

Underwater photography is a unique genre in photography in that no matter what type of camera you use, you’ll need to waterproof it.

When it comes to smartphone photography, this can be as simple as a waterproof case, housing, or bag. Contrary to what you may believe, there’s no need to spend excessive amounts of money on fancy equipment.

With the right protection for your mobile phone and a few adjustments to your technique, you can produce incredible and unique underwater images with your phone.

Getting Your Phone Ready for Underwater Photography

Obviously, to take photographs underwater, you’ll need a waterproof case or housing to protect your phone. Finding the right phone case will allow you to take pictures in peace without having to worry about your device being damaged by water.

There are many exceptional cases on the market, but it’s essential to make the distinction between water-resistant cases and waterproof cases. Making the wrong choice can have disastrous results, so it’s crucial you understand the difference.

Waterproof cases are truly impermeable and are meant to be submerged underwater. They typically protect your device down to a certain depth. Past that depth, the water pressure becomes too much for the seals, and you risk damage, so it’s imperative to know your case’s limits and respect them.

Water-resistant cases aren’t meant to be submerged. They’re simply meant to protect your mobile phone from splashes or spills, or even a quick rain shower. They are not designed to protect your phone underwater.

Obviously, for underwater photography, you want to choose a case that is fully waterproof and can withstand submersion. More reputable brands may also offer waterproof cases with water damage warranties, so keep an eye out for those.

Test Your Waterproof Phone Case

Even if a phone case claims to be completely waterproof, it’s understandable to be a little suspicious. After all, you’re putting a pretty valuable device inside it and trusting that what the manufacturer says is true.

If you’re not quite ready to dive underwater with your smartphone in your new case, you can test it at home. To check the case’s waterproofing, place a piece of paper, tissue, or paper towel inside, and seal the case.

Next, dunk the case in a full sink or bathtub of water. Be sure to keep the case underwater for at least a minute to test the case thoroughly. After you’re satisfied with the length of time spent underwater, you can check your paper for any signs of wetness.

Taking Underwater Pictures With a Smartphone

Underwater Phone photography
Lifeboat Foundation

It’s important to understand that your smartphone’s touchscreen may not work underwater (maybe try a smartphone camera remote!). Due to the water pressure and the heavy-duty case, your touchscreen may be less responsive than usual or even completely useless.

Many smartphone photographers find it useful to set their mobile phones up for photography before sealing the case. Open your camera app and adjust the settings to what generally works best for you before putting your phone in its case.

If the touchscreen on your mobile phone isn’t working as well as usual, or at all, you might also want to adjust your settings so that the screen never falls asleep. If you have to take your phone out of your case to turn the screen back on, it can be a significant hassle to have your screen go to sleep halfway through your shoot.

Many underwater smartphone photographers also opt to put their phones on airplane mode for the duration of their shoot. This way, their screens won’t be taken over by notifications, which can interrupt or even close the camera app.

Testing your phone in a sink, bathtub, or pool before your photoshoot will give you the chance to see how well everything works before you need to know what you’re doing. If you’re planning a big underwater photoshoot on a certain day, take a trip to your local pool or find a similar way to test your underwater photography skills before the big day.

The more you know about how your phone will work when submerged, the better your underwater pictures are going to turn out.

Underwater Photography Tips

Underwater Photography with Your Mobile Phone

Tip to Take Better Underwater Photos #1 – Re-Learn Lighting

When taking photographs underwater with your smartphone, it’s essential to be conscious of lighting and how the water will distort it. Bright sunlight, clouds, and shadows will all have exciting effects on the light under the water’s surface. If you are aware of this, you’ll be able to use it to your advantage.

The clarity of the water you’re shooting in will have a considerable impact on the quality of your images. If you’re shooting in somewhat murky lake water, your pictures may not look as good as they would if you were shooting in a clean swimming pool.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the more exciting aspects of underwater photography! Blurry photos are inevitable, but using blur artfully can create unique and noteworthy images. Bubbles can also add an appealing touch to your photos.

Tip to Take Better Underwater Photos #2 – Be Dynamic With Shooting Distance

Try shooting your subject from different distances underwater. Depending on the type of phone you have, it may have troubleshooting clear images from a distance while underwater. As you practice more with your phone, you’ll have a better understanding of its capabilities underwater.

Most importantly, take plenty of pictures. With underwater photography, it can sometimes be difficult to line up the perfect shot. The time you waste trying to get everything right is better spent actually taking pictures. Sure, you’re going to have a lot of less than stellar images, but there are going to be a lot of great photos in there as well.

Tip to Take Better Underwater Photos #3 – Edit Creatively (but consider pre-sets)

After your underwater photoshoot is over, don’t forget to add your final touches to your images in your favorite photo editing app. There are tons of options available, whether you have an iPhone or an Android, but here are a few of the best.

No matter how much experience you have with smartphone photography, underwater photography will push you out of your comfort zone. However, with a little practice, you’ll be producing incredible images that no one would guess were taken by a mobile phone.

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