Job Description of an Underwater Photographer


Rather than photographing images on solid ground each day, an underwater photographer heads beneath the surface of the water to capture images and videos of life down under. This type of photographer must be physically fit, in good health and adventurous, enjoying the challenge of getting the lighting and timing right to photograph underwater objects.

Typical Job Duties

  • The main responsibility of an underwater photographer is to capture images and videos of sea life, divers and artifacts submerged underwater. Many are assigned to take specific images for a client or employer, while others choose their own work with the intent to sell it to publications, galleries and clients once finished. The majority of underwater photographers work on a freelance basis, so job duties also include running all aspects of a business, including managing marketing, administrative functions, finances and IT activities.

Required Skills and Education

  • Underwater photographers must earn a Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) certification to learn how to dive safely and what to do in the event of an emergency. An underwater photographer must be skilled at using still and video cameras with underwater housings, designed to protect equipment and capture images underwater. Proficiency with photo editing software is required. While not always a requirement, underwater photographers can benefit from earning a photography degree or a marine science degree.

Work Environment

  • An underwater photographer frequently embarks on trips to photograph animals and plants in the ocean, rivers and lakes. However, much of the workday is spent in an office environment, creating and editing images and videos, responding to client inquiries and completing business-related paperwork. Freelance photographers may work long hours when completing a project, averaging 70 to 80 hours per week.

Average Salary

  • Photographers ─ including underwater photographers, earn an average of $37,190 per year, as of May 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS also notes that just one in three photographers works part-time. Salaries for underwater photographers can vary greatly by area of the country. For example, the average annual salary of an underwater photographer in Florida is $40,000, $46,000 in California and $32,000 in Alaska.

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