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Books on Underwater Photography

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Books on Underwater Photography.
 As some WetPixel members have asked about books on how to take underwater photographs, here are some classic oldies and several newer books, listed by year of publication, each with one or two reader’s comments. The books written before 2005 deal with film photography, while those about digital uw photography first appeared around 2010, a  lag of ten or so years after digital cameras first appeared.  

Prices are not listed as they vary greatly depending on whether the book is printed or electronic, new or used. Amazon and the Book Authority provide book excerpts, reviews, reader’s comments, and used books at bargain prices. Most of these books are rated 4 or 4 1/2 out of 5 gold stars. Reader's comments accompany each book title, rather than the publisher's blurb, as they give a better idea of its usefulness to the modern underwater photographer. Please feel free to add the books I may have missed. 

1. Greenberg, Jerry: Underwater Photography Simplified. 1971. 48 pages, 5th edition.

This may be the first book on how to take underwater photos, and was quite popular in its day. It deals mostly with film cameras and film technique, but as digital photography has taken over, this book has no useful information for beginners or advanced.

2. Howard Hall: Guide to Successful Underwater Photography. 1982.

A true classic, well worth buying when available on the used book market. Still a bible to learn from and for one’s book collection.

a) “An oldie but goodie — my bible getting started,” says contributor Brandon Cole of this 1982 landmark guide. "My own impression is that this 200 page book has 180 pages of excellent advice and technical points, all useful, clearly stated. Hall teaches one how to take underwater photos in a logical and perfectly organized way.  I just read this book some 40 years after it was written, and enjoyed and learned from every page."

b) “I have read this book several times, and review it before any major photo expedition. Howard concentrates on the essential art of underwater photography in a concise, readable, meaningful way. He avoids extraneous technical information that so many other manuals use as filler, and focuses clearly on the essence of underwater photography. I gave my original copy away as a gift, and was overjoyed when I was able to pick up a used copy of this out of print paperback. I recommend this superb book to all underwater photographers, new and old.”

c) This is the best book I have ever read on underwater photography. Also, this book improved my skills and taught me how to see the underwater world. Fantastic.  Jeffrey Hammerhead , Aug 10, 2015 “

3. Norbert Wu: How to Photograph Underwater. 1994.  

a) The author writes clearly, concisely and his book easy to read and retain.  Even though most of the hardware discussions relate to film cameras, his narrations on how to take underwater photos are excellent, making, thirty years later, two/thirds of the book still relevant, useful and enjoyable.  His photographs are admirable and one learns from his narration on how he took them.
Most of the photos are wide angle, with some macro shots.  The section on organizing and marketing one’s underwater photos is excellent. One wishes Norbert Wu would re-write his book for modern digital cameras and strobes. 

b) "Mr.Wu primarily covers the difference in the photographic requirements underwater as compared to land photography including the effects of using a specific manufacturer's film. If your knowledge of photography basics is minimal you will be best served to grasp these elsewhere before reading this concisely written book. He all but eliminates the clutter of the basics. I felt he may have been too brief. It is definitely not exhaustive. I think that more examples of the various lenses available and their effects, camera manufacturers who make special cameras for this purpose, and lighting requirements that exist underwater could have been expanded without going beyond the scope of the writer's intent. If you need or want more detail, then this book is not for you. Overall, I think it's a good refresher book."

4. Jim Church: Essential Guide to Composition. A Simplified Approach to Taking Better Underwater Pictures. 1998.   

"This book was written before the digital age, but the principles of good composition have not changed. My only hesitation in recommending this book is that his work is so important that it has become incorporated into all modern texts, and there is little need to go back to the original source. The book is concise, well written, and beautifully illustrated. So, for historical interest and as a concise treatment of the subject, you will enjoy it, but there is unlikely to be anything unfamiliar to you. Far more useful to me was Martin Edge's "The Underwater Photographer." 

5. Mark Webster: The Art & Technique of Underwater Photography. 1998. 

a) "This book is aimed at anyone who is considering or beginning underwater photography, but also has the scope to help the more experienced photographer develop specific techniques, perfect particular subjects, and give advice on entering competitions and selling your work. The subjects covered by each chapter are designed to allow you to pick your entry level and then aid both the beginner or more experienced photographer to expand and hone their skills within each technique before moving on." 

b) "As an amateur surface photographer, I truly enjoyed reading this book. It provides me comprehensive basic knowledge on the subject as well as more in-depth knowledge to build on down the road. The photos throughout the book greatly help convey the author's ideas and the readers to quickly grasp the concept. I recommend this book to anyone considering taking up underwater photography." 

6. Paul Kay: Underwater Photography. 2004

a) “An award-winning photographer and his breathtaking pictures provide beautiful inspiration for anyone longing to dive into the deep blue sea and record the wonders of marine life. Everything is broken down into manageable, thematic sections, which cover the photographic basics before progressing to more advanced procedures. Capture the ocean’s infinite splendor with an array of underwater shooting techniques, advice on choosing a camera, suggestions for maintaining the equipment, and instructions for lighting in this watery world. You’ll find out how to deal with low visibility, learn essential photographic equations for calculating shutter speeds and exposures; understand the differences between various film stocks and what digital can do; and see how to use the flash effectively. So take the plunge—the results will be fabulous.”

b) “This beautifully illustrated title by an award-winning underwater photographer combines stunning photography and informative. The author breaks the subject down into manageable thematic chapters which deal with the basics of underwater photography before progressing to advanced techniques. The result is a comprehensive range of information suitable for readers or all ability levels, regardless of previous experience. - Basic underwater techniques - Underwater cameras - Maintaining your equipment - Using a camera underwater - Flash and available light - * Top author was first person to be awarded a fellowship by the Royal Photographic Society for temperate underwater photography. He runs photo-education courses in the UK and leads field expeditions abroad.”

7. Jack & Sue Drafahl: Master Guide for Underwater Digital Photography. 2004.

 a) "From camera selection to enhanced exposure, everything necessary to capture underwater digital images is available in this handy reference. Photographers will learn how to select, test, and use digital cameras for technically perfect images, adapt traditional photo techniques to underwater conditions, confidently shoot and light underwater images for great exposure, and remedy common problems that plague underwater photographers. Helpful hints on maintaining, cleaning, transporting, and insuring a digital camera are included. With full-color images that both instruct and inspire, this handbook provides information on every conceivable aspect of creating the right conditions for beautiful underwater photographs."
 b) “The first 60 pages deal with film cameras and technique, the rest of the book is on how to find and photo underwater subjects, illustrated with excellent large photos and many good instructions and suggestions.  It is worthwhile if it can be bought for a good used book price”.

8. Andrea and Antonella Ferrari: The Art of Underwater Photography: Creative Techniques and Camera Systems for Digital and Film. 2007

 Some reviewers of this book run hot, others cold, as some consider it inspiring, others to be so vague as to be useless.

a) “ Be aware this really isn't a technical, dry, boring guide in the strictest sense of the word like most of the others available on the market. It's rather more of a highly inspirational book which begs to be read and re-read again to find creative inspiration, to bring out the inner hidden artist. I loved the photos and highly enjoyed the clever suggestions in the text - and I can already see how my own underwater photography has incredibly been enriched by this volume. It's like having your own personal tutor! This is a book I'll treasure for many years to come.
 But now this:

b) “As a guide to being an underwater photographer it is pitched at the diver who has already bought the camera and knows about the basics but is looking to improve composition and their artistic style. There are some good points and some nice ideas. For example the author links ideas from classic cinematography to framing, composition and developing character in subjects, he discuses trim and interesting debates such as Canon Vs Nikon but sadly this were the teaching falls down. As it is a little beyond the beginner and slightly patronising for the more experienced.
I am also surprised that the editors allowed so much personal subjectivity into the text as it seems that the book is ego driven. At times the authors distain for inexperienced divers comes through to strongly. This makes you want to put the book down and begs the question 'who is this guy' sure he is a good photographer but is really that great, I have not heard of him and he is not Doublet. I think there is danger that some photographers journey a little to far up there own rectums and this book seems to show that. Sadly the attempts of linking eastern mysticism and pseudo intellectualisation just add to the feeling of 'arse' that you get from reading it. For example the title which I assume attempts to link to Robert Pirsig's classic book on values and technology - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is pretentious. After all this is diving with cameras not a discussion of 20th century values and 'quality'.
The misplaced narrative is a 'narrative' that is disjointed and mixed up with the pictures. It is written in a chatty style with no demarked chapters and is more the like the warbling, moans and nit picks of man who has won a few photography prizes than a guide on how to take good pictures.  

9. Larry Gates: The Beginner's Guide to Underwater Digital Photography. 2010  

“Simplifying the seemingly difficult and expensive art of underwater photography, this accessible investigation outlines the four elements of success: focus, exposure, composition, and subject. Beginning with an overview of necessary diving skills, this survey reviews these four categories in detail, depicting how to obtain superior results even without the latest and greatest equipment. Maintenance and first-aid tactics are presented as well, reducing the chance of disappointing malfunctions during a dive. Also covered is the importance of developing a photography plan beforehand—both for the safety of the divers and the protection of the underwater environment. Concluding with post-shoot techniques for choosing the best frames, cropping photos for printing, and the top methods of presentation, this examination demonstrates how underwater images can be used to share the world of diving while promoting important conservation efforts. “

10. Larry Gates: Advanced Underwater Photography. 2011  

  “Ignore ‘Advanced’ in the title. If you know what ISO, F-stop, and aperture are, you know enough to start with this book without any other prerequisite.
The first few chapters are so chock full of useless fluff, I nearly chucked this book in the trash. For example, on P18, the author explains in painful detail why its better to have in-focus shots than blurry ones. But soldiering on, eventually the book does get into real-deal info on equipment and technique and provides enough useful information that a beginning underwater photographer will learn a thing or two.
There are plenty of photos illustrating technique, always with F-stop, shutter speed, and ISO, but only sometimes with focal length.
If you are an intermediate or advanced underwater photographer, skip this book as it will be too basic for you. If you have no experience with UWP, this is a decent place to start, though far better technical resources are avail on the web for free. Just search for "underwater photography guide". 

11. Richard Carey: The Underwater Photographer's Guide. 2012 

“...this book/ebook by Red Sea diving instructor Richard Carey is a new primer for underwater photographers. There is no shortage of such texts, but this one stands out as being very clearly and simply written, avoiding unnecessary jargon and concentrating on the essentials everyone needs to understand when venturing beyond automatic settings. The images used as examples are good-quality, too, which, isn’t always the case with such guides. The captions make it clear that Richard uses only Canon Eos SLR cameras with either 60mm or 100m macro, Tokina 12-24mm zoom or Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens. However, this doesn’t seem to make the guide any less useful for non-Canon owners or users of compact cameras, because his approach is all about stripping the task down to universal principles and covering the basics. For beginners the lack of flab will be a bonus. Load up the ebook version as a handy reference for your next trip. Steve Weinman “ (In other words, this book does not discuss Macro, only Wide Angle)

12. Pat Colley and Alex Mustard: Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera. 2014

a) “The best underwater images don't just capture the subject well, they also capture mood, emotion and atmosphere. Unlike most other underwater photography books, Winning Images with Any Underwater Camera focuses on composition and techniques rather than the all-­consuming camera technology that people tend to chase first. This makes it a supremely cost-effective tool for improving images; and there is no discrimination between users of different camera systems - this truly is a book for all.“

b) “A very useful book for someone who has underwater photo experience. For the beginner it may be little daunting. To get the most out of the book you should be knowledgeable and have mastered the basics including actual in-water experience with UW cameras. My best advice would be to get the UW photography instruction book by Martin Edge and be reasonably familiar with that information and techniques contained in that book ( even though is is a little dated) and then progress to the Masterclass book. For me I learned some new techniques I haven't used or tried before and I have been shooting nearly 20 years beginning in the film era.”

13. Nick Robertson-Brown: Underwater Photography. Art and Techniques. 2014. 

a)  “This practical book explains and offers advice to the reader on both the art and the science involved in capturing stunning underwater shots. Contents include: Advice on the equipment you will need to get the most from your underwater photography; Descriptions of underwater habitats and animal behaviour; Guidance on how to be a responsible photographer; Direction and assistance on topics including composition, natural and artificial lighting, exposure and underwater conditions. Superbly illustrated with 206 stunning colour photographs.”

b) “What I like about this book is the explanation, the way it unpacks everything so clearly, so I could really understand the principles - not just the 'how', but the 'why'. And then it told me in clear steps how to produce great underwater photos. Highly recommended!”

c) “There are much better underwater photography books available. The photos in the book are not very good at all. Any book by Martin Edge or Alex Mustard is much better.”

14. Tobias Frederich: Underwater Photography. 2014.

“Underwater photography is a fascinating pursuit for those who aspire to capture the magical world found within our oceans and bring it to the surface. In this book, award-winning photographer Tobias Friedrich teaches us how to create stunning underwater images, covering everything from the equipment needed, to creating powerful compositions, to processing the final image. He uses case studies to show how his own images were created, and provides detailed explanations for specific techniques that can be applied to your very next dive.
The text is supported by images from some of the most beautiful diving areas on Earth. Also included are countless tips and tricks for the beginner and intermediate photographer.“

15. Alex Mustard : Underwater Photography Master Class. 2016.

a) “When Scuba Diving surveyed our go-to shooters for their recommendations, this text — by another frequent contributor — was mentioned most often, hands down. For more-advanced/-creative techniques, this new volume “simply can’t be beat,” says Allison Vitsky Sallmon, “a common refrain.”

b)“The first 30 pages of the book are what one might call “introductory,” teaching the reader the holistic approach to underwater photography—from differentiating the mindset from “just a diver” to environmental considerations. There’s also a useful introduction to the required gear, with up-to-date (as of 2016) information on cameras, ports, housings, strobes, and building your ideal rig. If you already have a setup for underwater photography, this section might not provide too much more insight, but it’s definitely key for building from the ground up.
 From here, Alex’s genius for providing a unique, practical way to present a topic is really evident. Instead of initially branching out into wide angle, macro, super-macro, or any other classifications of underwater imagery, he presents underwater photography in terms of lighting—a theme that drives the whole book. “

16. Larry Gates. Underwater Photography: A Pictorial Guide to Shooting Great Pictures.  2016

a) “Beginning underwater photographers may be surprised to find that there are numerous tools—from fully automated cameras, to smart phone cameras, to sophisticated DSLRs—that can be used to create incredible underwater photographs. In this book, author Larry Gates (of Aberdeen, South Dakota) “dives in” to the topic of underwater photography and teaches the skills beginning photographers need to explore saltwater and freshwater environments. Beginning with a look at the equipment used, Gates explains how to keep your camera water-tight, choose lenses and accessories, and assemble your system. You’ll learn which lenses are best for photographing large versus small creatures, reef scenes, wrecks, divers, and more. You’ll also learn how to work with a strobe, ensure sharp focus, and increase the odds of getting images with vibrant color. Finally, Gates provides strategies for managing your workflow and doing basic image editing after the dive.”

b) “With clear step-by-step tutorials and inspirational examples of the photographers’ craft, the author shares with you the fine art of composition and other secrets for making successful underwater pictures.” ―Mike Ellis, Photo Pro Dolphin Dream Team Charters

17. Martin Edge with Stuart Gibson: The Underwater Photographer. 5th ed. 2020. 

“In this long-awaited fifth edition of the best-selling book, Martin Edge continues to provide the definitive guide to underwater photography. The book covers everything from the basic principles, the equipment and approaches to composition and lighting through to creating an individual style."
"The book features over 400 updated color images - taken on numerous dives around the world - with an accompanying narrative that provides detailed information on how the shots were taken, their strengths and weaknesses and how to fix mistakes. Practical examples take you step-by-step through the basic techniques: photographing shipwrecks, divers, marine life, macro images and taking photographs at night. New chapters cover the latest equipment, processes and techniques including SLR Cameras, water contact lenses, mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, micro four third systems, super macro techniques, motion blur, LED lighting and more.”

18. Maria Munn: Underwater Photography: A Step-by-Step Guide to Taking Professional Quality Underwater Photos with a Point-and-Shoot Camera. 2021.

a) “Modern compact cameras are capable of capturing fantastic underwater images – and this book shows you how. Easy-to-follow techniques are accompanied by hundreds of photographs that show you how it is done and the results you can achieve.
There is advice for both beginners and more advanced compact camera users, covering topics such as what camera to buy and how to look after it, how to master settings for different cameras and how to compose great underwater photographs.
The author goes over several compact cameras in each section, and goes over the useful steps and details.”

b) “This is a very good book! the book is very easy to follow with detail explanation and good examples. I finished this book before my last diving trip, and brought home beautiful photos form the trip. just bought another one for my diver friend.”

20. Alexey Zaytsev: Underwater Pictures With the Olympus TG-6.  2021.

a) "This book is something every underwater TG user needs! It clearly describes the best settings and options for underwater photography, helping to set the TG camera to its ideal underwater capabilities. It’s simply written do you can easily follow the steps and get to shooting faster. The author gives tips on the camera, and all the accessories you can benefit from using on the TG. How to shoot in common underwater situations and “life hacks” make up a great section and there is even a section on strobe and light positioning. Whether you just bought your TG-6 or you’ve had it for years…. YOU WILL LEARN SOMETHING NEW IN THIS BOOK!!! Get it!"
b)"I found this camera very versatile on land and under water. The pictures under water were as expected from Olympus Camera. I will being buying the complete underwater package for our next trip."
c) "...but that is a lot to pay for an instruction manual."
d) "This book is grossly overpriced for the fairly skimpy advice given. It would have been reasonable, if it was less than half the cost. As good, or better, information can be had for free on the Backscatter website."
e) "Tell us how to navigate the menus! Give us the sequences to set things as you suggest them to set!" 
1. History of Underwater Photography. 
https://www.asprs.org/wp-  content/uploads/pers/1967journal/aug/1967_aug_897-904.pdf  

2 .bookauthority.org/books/underwater photography books.

3.  https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/69507-books-on-uw- photgraphy/&tab=comments#comment-439998

4. 10 of the Best Underwater Photography Books for Learning » ItsJustLight.com

5. Chitown SBP and Tim Gurney: https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/69507-books-on-uw-photgraphy/&tab=comments#comment-439975.  With this note, Tim Gurney stimulated me to prepare the above annotated listing, which Tim then kindly reviewed and contributed useful suggestions. Tim, thank you.                                  
- End -

Edited by Kraken de Mabini
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When writing my 2016 book I read (re-read) all the UW photo books I could find. Some are ego-trips, some simply repeat exactly the same stuff as every other book, and some (a smaller some) really add something original and useful to the field. 

I’ve spoken many times about all the different things I wanted to achieve for the reader with my book - and those who have read it can judge if I did. But a major motivation was to write something original - so whatever else you’d read on the topic, there would be value in reading my scribblings too. So I particularly value books that at the time they were published really introduced something new.

Three oldies-but-goodies that I would add to this list that I think bring something valuable to any UW photo bookshelf are:

De Couet & Green: The Manual Of Underwater Photography. 1989. 

Lot of outdated gear talk. But also plenty of sound underwater photography insight. 

Flip Schulke: Underwater Photography For Everyone. 1978. 

Well written and helpful. Obviously date in many areas. But excellent photography.

Lawrence Mertens: In-Water Photography. 1970.

Technical and original. Ideal for lovers of equations. No pretty pictures.


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Thanks for such a comprehensive survey Elias and Tim and Alex!  This topic arises so often that this list should be pinned to the top of the techniques section.  

For those beginners with shorter attention spans, online articles can be useful to explain the basics.  I found the following sites to contain very useful resources.  I’m sure that there are others.  





Edited by troporobo

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Hi Robert

Thanks! It's all down to a super idea and work from Elias. :yahoo:

And, yep, it has indeed been pinned.

Some really useful additions you've added. Many thanks indeed.

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Martin Edge's book was my bible when I got started. I still reference it regularly. 

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