What is Wide Angle Underwater Photography and What are the Benefits?

Before we talk about the benefits of taking wide-angle photos, I want to quickly explain what exactly I mean by “Wide Angle.” Wide-angle generally reefers to the photographer using a lens or a lens adapter that either goes onto the camera itself or mounts on the housing and will significantly increase the field of view beyond what the human eye can see. For example, most compact cameras will have a field of view when zoomed all the way out of about 70-90 degrees, this is roughly what the human eye sees in a fixed position.

Interpretation of the differences in perspectives from a ‘naked’ compact camera lens and a wide-angle lens

A wide-angle lens or a wide-angle lens adapter will increase the field of view to anywhere from 120-180 degrees, depending on the camera lens and or adapter. So, as you can see, most compact cameras, aside from the GoPro, really don’t allow you to shoot true wide-angle photos. In order to do so, you’ll need to purchase an after-market wide-angle lens. For wide-angle lens info, you can check out this blog. For now, let’s talk about the benefits of shooting in “wide-angle”.

1. Closer

Really, the biggest benefit of using a wide-angle lens underwater is the fact that with this increased field of view, we can now get nearly twice as close to our subject without cropping our intended composition. On land, where we’re shooting through air, we can more or less compose the same scene regardless of whether we’re using a wide-angle lens or a telephoto lens, we just need to back up further. It doesn’t work like this underwater, unfortunately, the more water we have between our camera and the subject the more clarity and color we lose in the image, especially in water with a lot of particulate. So, by using a wide-angle lens we can get right up next to our subject thereby reducing the amount of water we’re shooting through, which gives us a really sharp and colorful image.

Green sea turtle sleeping on reef

2. More Dynamic Range of Gradients

Another big thing you’ll notice when you make the switch from a more standard kit lens to a true wide-angle lens is the dynamic range you get, particularly when it comes to the water column. Since a wide-angle lens has a much wider field of view, you are now including the dark blues from the deeper water as well as the nice bright light blues from the surface. Pulling from this much more dynamic gradient of blues really helps make images pop!

3. Endless Creativity

Outside of providing more dynamic photos with heightened levels of color and clarity, wide-angle lenses really offer no end when it comes to being creative. Here are just a few things you can do with a wide-angle lens that you can’t do with any other type of lens really.

With an increased field of view, combined with a wide-angle lens’s larger surface area we can more easily capture over-under shots.

In flat shallow water, we can angle our camera upwards to capture reflections.

Wide-angle lenses allow for some interesting perspectives, particularly when it comes to extreme close-ups.

About Author

client-photo-1
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.