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25 Awe-Inspiring Underwater Photos

This post is part of a series called Underwater Photography.
Diving In: How To Get Started With Underwater Photography

The world underwater is unlike anything on land. It presents photographers with difficult challenges they have to overcome but it also creates completely unique opportunities. You can try and fake an underwater photograph in Adobe Photoshop but it will never look quite the same. To get it right you have to make the image under the water.

Even with all the challenges, underwater photography is surprisingly accessible. Actually taking a photo is the same process—you have to consider lighting, composition, exposure, and everything else you do on land—just in a more challenging environment. You also need to consider your safety, oxygen levels, buoyancy, and your fellow divers every time you start to frame a shot. More than one underwater photographer has died after losing track of their oxygen level while getting too caught up creating an image.

Underwater photography isn't just pictures of fish. Yes, nature photography is a huge part of it but some of the best works are underwater portraits and explorations of tone or texture. In this article I've gathered 25 awe-inspiring underwater photos. There's everything from portraits staged in a swimming pool to small fish in their natural habitats. The one thing that unites them all is that they were all taken underwater.

Navy Diver 2nd Class Ryan Arnold welds a patch onto an underwater structure. United States Government Work.
diver silhouette
Sailors conduct underwater videography training. United States Government Work.
swimmer below
Joe Townsend, a British Royal Marine veteran, swims a timed 50-meter freestyle. United States Government Work.
swimmer side on
Retired U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Nathan DeWalt practices freestyle swimming. United States Government Work.
diver at surface split
Sailors conduct underwater photography training. United States Government Work.
diver photographing
Sailors conduct underwater videography training. United States Government Work.
diver portrait
Portrait of a diver. United States Government Work.
underwater football
Students at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center play underwater football. United States Government Work.
small fish
A small fish in an aquarium. Public Domain.
Penguin at the surface. Public Domain.
diver silhouette
Scuba diver in the deeps. Public Domain.
swarm of jellyfish
Swarm of blue jellyfish. Public Domain.
Manatee portrait. Public Domain.
seal portrait
Seal portrait. Public Domain.
electric blue jellyfish
Electric blue jellyfish. Public Domain.
diver underboat
A diver swims under a boat. Public Domain.
lots of fish
Fish swim past coral. Public Domain.
Lionfish. Public Domain.
jumping into the water
A man jumps into the water. Public Domain.
A clownfish tries to hide behind a rock. Public Domain.
Stingray close up. Public Domain.
Sawfish. Public Domain.
A wave at Moonlight State Beach. Public Domain.
A jellyfish near the surface. Public Domain.
woman in the water
Untitled. Public Domain.
woman in the water
Untitled. Public Domain.
wave crash
A wave breaks. Public Domain.
surface from below
The surface from below. Public Domain.

Wrapping Up

Underwater photography is one of the hardest photographic disciplines to master. To make a great image underwater you need to be a talented photographer and an exceptional diver. There are relatively few people who are world class at both. 

If you're looking for more inspiration you should check out the work of David Doubilet and Brian Skerry. They are Natural Geographic's go-to underwater photographers. Between them they have thousands of hours experience diving and thousands more photographing. They are the true masters of the craft of underwater photography. Maybe one day you will join their ranks.

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