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Basic Principles of Light Underwater
Underwater photography presents unique challenges due to the properties of water and its effect on light. Water absorbs light in ways that air does not. Therefore, it is important to understand the ramifications of this fact and what you can do to compensate and capture good images underwater.

Unlike shooting on land, available light (the sun) alone will normally not provide the right light to produce the colorful and pleasing images that you were hoping for.
Underwater, light is affected by:
  • Depth
  • Subject distance
  • Weather and surface conditions

Light Loss

Water is approximately 800 times denser than air, and this density absorbs light - quickly. Not only does this result in dull, monotone colors, but it also decreases contrast and image sharpness. New underwater photographers often get frustrated from the blue / gray hue of their images - a direct result of the properties of water and the affect of light absorption. This is actually a very common problem and there are several approaches to reintroducing color and clarity to your images.
Specific frequencies of ambient light get absorbed at different depths, from the longest wavelength to shortest (basically the colors of the rainbow, remember ROYGBIV?). Red nearly disappears at around 5 meters, followed by orange at 10 meters, yellow at 20 meters, green at 30 meters and eventually even blue at 60 meters.

Due to this color loss underwater, underwater photography requires a means of compensation to restore the colors and contrast lost from absorption. The ideal way to accomplish this is by using artificial light (underwater strobes), but that is not to say that you will not be able to enjoy underwater photography without strobes, it is just the optimal solution. 
For more on how light works underwater, check out our extensive Guide To Underwater Lighting.
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