How to look good in underwater photos

Have you learnt to smilze yet? Photo by Simon Lorenz
Have you learnt to smilze yet? Photo by Simon Lorenz

If there’s one type of post you love sharing in our Facebook group, it’s snaps of you looking amazing in your underwater photos. Yet every time we see these posts, they’re inevitably paired with comments along the lines of “Wow, how do you look so good underwater? I look like a potato!”.


We know there’s more to scuba diving than getting that great shot for the ‘gram, but who are we to judge if you want to look great in front of the camera? If you’re looking to take your pics from potato to profile-pic-worthy, read on for our top tips - from focusing on your breathing and learning to “smize”, to ideas for underwater poses and how to communicate with your photographer. 

Great divers make great photos

Most skills in scuba diving come back to mastery of one key element - great buoyancy. Put simply, if you’re a better scuba diver then you’re going to look much better in your underwater photos. Focus on getting your fundamental scuba skills in tip-top shape and you’ll see a vast improvement in your “modelling” abilities. Fine tuning your buoyancy control and achieving great trim will mean you can hover effortlessly in a desired position whilst your buddy or photographer snaps away. Additionally, if you’re more comfortable underwater it will show in your face, which is hugely important for how your shots turn out. 


If you’re at the beginning of your scuba diving journey this can be a great way to track your progress. Get a buddy to grab some shots of you (making the most of the rest of the tips below), and then take some updated photos when you have 10-20 more dives under your belt. You might be surprised by how much more confident you appear! If you really want to take it to the next level, consider taking a buoyancy speciality course such as PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy or SSI Perfect Buoyancy. 

Photo by Simon Lorenz
Photo by Simon Lorenz

Banish the bubbles

Much like having great control over your buoyancy, having better breath control will also improve how you look in your underwater photos. Fast, shallow, rapid breathing patterns are never great for scuba diving, but will be particularly problematic when posing for underwater photos - a jacuzzi of bubbles every few seconds makes it a challenge to time a great snap. Concentrate on slow, relaxed breathing and have your buddy try and time their photos as you breathe in. If you’re snapping a group shot, have the photographer signal a countdown and a “breathe in” signal to coordinate the timing of your breaths. Contrastingly, if you’re working with a great underwater photographer then you can experiment with the bubbles to add an artistic edge to your photos.

BUBBLES | Photo by Jay Clue
BUBBLES | Photo by Jay Clue

Edit your photos in one click with the Girls that Scuba filter pack

Communication is key

Communicating well underwater can help with timing photos between your breaths, but communicating with your photographer or buddy pre-dive on land can really elevate the success of your underwater photos. If you’ve hired a photographer to capture the memories of a special dive, listen up carefully to their briefing as they’ll have some wisdom to share on how you can look your best. If you’re hoping for a buddy to get some great photos of you, carefully plan together how you’ll achieve the shots you’re after. If you want to capture a snap with a particular animal, such as peeking out at the camera from behind a cheeky clownfish, discuss how you’ll position yourselves to do so. It can be helpful to plan out specific poses you want to try and perhaps number them, as well as waiting and continuing to pose until your photographer’s signalled an “okay” to say they’ve got the shot. Establish how you’ll communicate these points before you embark on your dive.

Snapshot at our latest Girls that Scuba day
Snapshot at our latest Girls that Scuba day

The power of the “smize”

Even if you’ve never watched a single episode of America’s Next Top Model, you’ve probably heard of the term popularised by Tyra Banks - “smizing”. Smiling with your eyes is pretty powerful when you’ve got a huge regulator in your mouth and you’re less able to show off those pearly whites. Keep eye contact with the camera, try to raise your brows slightly against your mask, and smile even if you’re keeping your reg in. Equally, if you’re confident doing so, pop your regulator out for a moment and give a true cheesy grin in the direction of the lens!

Consider your gear

Whilst we’re not telling you to pick a mask purely based on how it will look in a photograph, know that your choice of scuba diving mask will make a difference to how your face appears on camera. For masks which photograph best in most situations, look for a style with a wide field of vision, a frameless or single-lens build, and a clear skirt. Masks with a pop of colour can also give a bit of interest to your photo. 


Make sure your mask is always clear! Read more: How to clean a new mask


On the subject of colour - consider the colours in your equipment. As with your mask, your equipment should be chosen based on fit and comfort as opposed to how well it photographs, but if you’re choosing new gear why not make it photogenic? A limited colour palette in your gear, such as all black with a pop of colour on your mask, hoses and fins, may look sleeker in photographs. If you want your photos to scream fun, however, go all out with a crazy printed wetsuit or skin suit. Check out Sirensong Wetsuits and GlideSoul for some awesome colours and prints to choose from - both brands offer an exclusive discount to Girls that Scuba Membership Card holders!


The final equipment consideration is making sure that your gear is fully streamlined. There’s nothing more frustrating than thinking you’ve got a great photo, only to look at it back on land and realise that your SPG is dangling from your body and ruining the overall look. Ensuring that all hoses are tidied away will make you look like a much more professional diver, and will also help you in gliding through the water more efficiently.

Dive like a dancer

When it comes to making your body look the best it can underwater, think like a dancer as much as like a diver. Slow, exaggerated movements and elongated limbs will make you look much more elegant, as well as making it easier to photograph you. If you’re kicking with a flutter kick rather than a frog kick, think about pointing your toes and trying to move more from the hip to make the overall look more fluid and less angular. 


Try to think about your positioning against the camera, too. Being face on and close to the lens can mean your limbs get cut out of the shot, or you end up with a fin oddly protruding from the back of your head. If you’re trying to get more of your full body into the shot, try angling at around 45 degrees to the camera. If you want to get more of a side on picture, your photographer or buddy can experiment with this as a silhouetted look from further away. This works particularly well if you’re trying to capture yourself with interesting topography, such as showing the scale of a wreck.

Use your hands

If we can use them to talk underwater, we can certainly use our hands to communicate in a photograph, too. It seems like an easy option, but hand signals can be a great way to make you feel less awkward when posing for an underwater shot. Whether you choose to throw up an “okay” sign or a hang-loose/shaka signal, try to keep your hands close to your face so that they definitely make it into the frame. If signals aren’t your thing, still consider your hand placement to keep your photo elegant - hands clasped in front of you or gently folded arms are simple options.

Upgrade in one click

Underwater photos rarely look great without a little bit of editing - but you don’t need to be a Photoshop wizard to be able to make your snaps look Instagram worthy. Our Girls that Scuba Underwater Lightroom Presets can take even the most amateur GoPro shots from drab and dull to dynamic in one easy click. As well as four underwater presets which intelligently adapt the individual tones of your photos, the pack also features three presets for use on above-water snaps and even one for those trendy half-and-half shots.

Have some fun!

The best way to make sure you look great in your underwater photo is to be having a great time! If you’re enjoying yourself on your dive it will definitely show on your face, so focus on having fun rather than fixating on that future Facebook profile pic. Throw out some silly underwater dance moves, blow some kisses to the fishes, and see what photos you can come up with.

What’s your favourite underwater pose? Share with us in our Facebook group, or tag us on Instagram @girlsthatscuba!