12 Things you Should Know About your Camera
  1. Can I access all the buttons when the camera is in the housing?

If you have a camera and housing combination, it’s very important to know whether or not you can access all the buttons of the camera once it’s in the housing. Don’t ask me why, but quite a few housing manufacturers don’t make it possible to access all the different buttons on your camera. This is a good question to ask before you purchase a housing. If you already have a housing and just realized you can’t access all the buttons and dials, look online for other ways of accessing that same control, sometimes there will be an option in the cameras menu system to toggle the same function without the button.

Photographer photographing river scene

  1. What is the maximum depth my camera and or housing can be submerged to?

This one is pretty self-explanatory, you don’t want to be diving down deeper than your camera or housing is rated for.

  1. How do I access the white balance and or underwater shooting modes?

All cameras will have a white balance function, but only a few cameras—like the Olympus TG series, will have underwater white balance and or underwater shooting modes. In order to get the best underwater color correction, it’s vital that you know what white balance options your camera has and how to use them.

  1. How do I set a custom white balance underwater?

Many cameras don’t come with a built-in underwater white balance setting, so, in order to get great underwater images full of natural colors, it’s important that you know how to properly set and store custom white balance settings.

  1. Does my camera have a macro setting or mode, if so, how do I access it?

For those of you who love shooting small critters, knowing how to quickly access your camera’s macro mode, if it has one, is very important for capturing those cute little reef creatures like nudibranchs.

  1. How wide is my lens?

Some camera lenses are very wide, like the GoPro’s which at its widest is 134 degrees. Others, like the Olympus TG-6’s lens at its widest, is around 75 degrees. Knowing how wide your lens is is very important in knowing your optimal proximity to subjects.

Belize coral reef

A very wide lens gives the effect of being further away from subjects, which is ideal for shooting underwater as it forces you get closer to fill the frame and thereby reduces the amount of water between you and the subject, making for a much sharper image. If your lens is not very wide, you will need to move further back from the subject in order to compose the same image as that of a wider lens. This means shooting through more water and a not very sharp image.

  1. What is the minimum focus distance, zoomed in and out?

This is important for those of you who love shooting small subjects, like nudibranchs, up close. All cameras will have a minimum focus distance, and that distance will only increase as you start to zoom in. As you become more aware of your camera’s minimum focus distance you’ll be able to compose your shots quicker, and without the frustration of wondering why your images are out of focus.

  1. Which side of the camera is my flash on?

Most compact cameras will include an internal flash, usually located on the left-hand side of the camera. However, on some, they will be more central. If you are composing your shot with the subject to be on the right-hand side of the frame but your flash is on the left, it’s possible you won’t get the full effect of the flash, or you’ll experience some shadows caused by the camera’s extended lens if you are really close to the subject.

olympus tg5 on beach

  1. How do I turn on and off my flash?

Not all photos need a flash. A flash is only effective to about three feet or so, and if used incorrectly it can ruin a good photo by creating lots of backscatter. It’s really important to know how to turn on your flash for those close up subjects, and then turn it off when you want to shoot larger subjects or reef scenes that are not suitable for flash photography.

  1. Can I manually move the focus point, if so, how?

If you want to get the best compositions, and you do because composition is key to creating powerful images, you’ll want to know how to move your camera’s focus point. Some cameras, like the SeaLife cameras, won’t allow you to move the focus point, while others like the Olympus TG-6 will. If you can’t move the focus point, there are still workarounds for composing your images so that the subject is not always dead center in the frame. If your camera does have the option to move the focus point, get really familiar with that function so you don’t need to waste time remembering which button to press in order to do so.

  1. Does my camera have RAW file options?

Most cameras now will offer the option to shoot in RAW format. RAW format allows you to make much more adjustments to your images in editing software without compromising the quality of the photos. For people that want to spend time editing every photo, it’s a good idea to shoot with RAW files. For those that don’t intend to edit the photos later on, just leave them in JPEG format to save time and space.

  1. Does my camera record video, and how do I quickly switch between video and photo modes?

Though your camera may look like a standard compact photo camera, there’s a good chance it has a video option as well, particularly if it’s a newer camera. If you’ve never shot video before, maybe give it a try. Could be something you end up liking!

About Author

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Alex Lindbloom
Alex is a Snorkel Venture and Dive Safari Asia guide as well as the video and photo pros for both companies. Alex is also a field editor for a popular underwater photography magazine. Prior to joining Snorkel Venture in 2018 Alex lived and worked all over the world working as an underwater cameraman, with five of those years living/working on a yacht in Indonesia. Alex's images and videos have garnered many international awards such as Underwater Photographer of the Year and can be seen on NatGeo, Discovery Channel, the UN Building, and various magazines.