Great Destinations to Practice Underwater Photography

Great Destinations to Practice Underwater Photography

Are you new to underwater photography, or need to brush up a bit? Unsure where to get your feet wet first? While there are many ideal places around the world that are perfect for beginners, I've compiled a few of the spots that I love for their calm conditions, easy entries, and photographic opportunities.

1. Bonaire

This tiny Dutch island lies slightly north of Venezuela and to the east of Aruba and Curacao in the Caribbean Sea. The west coast of the island boasts super easy diving and/or snorkeling with very few currents, shallow sites, and clear water. Rent a truck, throw your gear in the back, and make your way from one well marked site to the next. Along the way, if you get hungry, be sure to pull over to eat at one of the islands delicious food trucks. Turtles are pretty common on the east coast, however conditions can be a bit more windy on that side of the island. You will still bump into turtles on the west coast - just not as many. The west coast is where you’ll find the majority of dive sites. 

A sea turtle cruises along the sandy seafloor surrounding Bonaire


2. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

If you want to photograph marine life this is a great option in the Caribbean Sea. In particular, Stingray City comes to mind. Photographing stingrays from this shallow sandbar can be quite a lot of fun. Occasionally, a great hammerhead makes an appearance as they love to munch on rays—so be ready for that photo op! This is also a good location for practicing over-under images, as you can stand/kneel along certain parts of the sandbar.

3. Cabo san Lucas, Mexico

While it is probably best known for its party vibe, ten minutes outside of the bustling marina lies a brilliant, translucent blue water column that is home to sea lions, whales, sharks, turtles, and schooling fish. As long as you are okay levitating over deep water this is a great spot for pelagic photography.

4. Monterey, California

Magical kelp forests dot the coastline of this northern California city and make it a great option to mix things up. It is, of course, a bit colder, so be prepared. If you are in the area be sure to pop by and say hello to the folks at Backscatter Underwater Video + Photo. It’s not every day one can walk into a dedicated underwater photography showroom, so it’s definitely not be missed. Be prepared to be wooed by all of the gear they have on display. Next door to Backscatter you'll find a dive shop and across the street from the shops you’ll find an entry point for divers/snorkelers. Sea otters, diving cormorants, and sea lions are abound.

Stingray City—Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands


5. Malta

While Malta does not always offer a lot in the way of marine life, the conditions around the tiny island of Gozo make it a good spot to practice shooting underwater. The rock formations and unique swim-through's offer unique topography, while Malta also offers a diving playground for wreck-lovers, with literally dozens scuttled around the island nation.  You might be lucky enough to catch a school of barracuda or an octopus here and there as well. Like Monterey, Malta can be a bit on the colder side, but warms up nicely in summer.

6. Pools/Lakes

Of course, you don’t need to travel far to practice shooting underwater. Try coordinating a shoot at a local pool or lake with a friend to model for you. In an ideal world, you’ll know the location of key settings on your underwater housing well before you make it to one of the destinations listed above.

There are many great destinations around the world to get your feet wet with underwater photography. Finding a location that generally has good visibility, little to no currents, and a comfortable temperature are some things to keep in mind when sorting out where to shoot.

If you are still trying to figure out which gear to get, there is a great event known as the Digital Shootout that takes place on different islands in the Caribbean every year. The Shootout allows attendees to test out cameras, strobes, and housings over the week-long event.

Do you have a spot that is great for beginners that I haven’t mentioned above? I’d love to hear about it below.

Joanna Lentini's picture

Joanna's writing, photography, & trips focus on the natural world and our connection to it. Whether underwater or on land, she strives to capture not only the magic of our planet, but also the perils facing it. She is also the COO of the non-profit organization Oceans in Focus whose mission is to raise awareness about the plight of our oceans.

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In the US, the Florida Keys and especially Key Largo provide an abundance of diving and snorkelling opportunities for all skill levels and budgets.