How To Take Great Coral Photographs

Last Updated on March 21, 2021

Coral closeups never fail to amaze. The color and vibrancy is truly breathtaking. And even more breathtaking is diving into the water and taking those images yourself.

I went on a guided photography dive in Belgium a couple years ago and it was one of the most amazing photography experiences of my life. My guide was amazing and he helped me get some amazing coral closeups.

How To Do Underwater Coral Photography

One of the biggest challenges in shooting underwater coral photography is finding a location that offers coral without mud, sand, or damage to the coral.

But the most important thing is to first make sure your diving skills are up to snuff. From there just follow a few simple steps and you will be on your way to taking some amazing images.

1. Get Your Gear

underwater photographer taking picture of coral

Shooting underwater coral requires the right gear, and it can cost a sizeable investment to get the absolute best results. You will need a camera with a dedicated underwater housing. You also need a 1:1 macro lens and if you want really good lighting, underwater strobes and brackets as well.

You should get all your gear tested by taking some test pictures before getting in the water. Always make sure your gear is fully charged and you have ample memory card space.

2. Explore Your Environment

diver exploring coral reef

You should always get to know the reef you’re shooting before snapping any shots. You want to make a pre-shooting dive to do this so the first time down leave your camera on land. This not only allows you to plan some of your shots it also will help you navigate the coral safely when you have all your gear with you.

3. Do A Pre-Dive Gear Check

fish swimming around coral reef

Be prepared to take your time prepping your gear. It can take over a half an hour but that is time well spent. Make sure your camera housing is properly secured and your O rings are in working order.

You will also need to make sure all the preset of your camera are set since you won’t be able to do so when underwater.

And before going in the water, keep your camera out of the sun. If it heats up and then goes in the cold water your camera will fog up. And if you dive down more than once, keep your camera submerged in water in between dives to avoid any salt from hardening.

4. Experiment When Shooting

stunning coral reef in sunlight

Photographing coral has some unique challenges beyond being underwater. Different types of coral handle light in dramatically different ways. Some parts of the reef may reflect light while others will seemingly suck it up. So experiment with exposure and get those breathtaking closeups.

5. Don’t Do Too Much Editing

Some very subtle editing is all you need for your coral shots. Go in and adjust the contrast, color balance, and exposure where it needs it. Do any necessary cropping while you’re at it. But that’s usually all the editing you will need to do.


And that’s all there is too it! Well pretty much. One of the hardest parts for me was my diving skills were not initially up to where I wanted them but that’s where the power of jumping in the water comes in. Get in the water and explore those reefs before you even consider taking your first shot. If you do that the rest will come easy and you’ll be taking amazing coral photography in no time.