Meet Guest Moderator Mary Okner!

We are super thrilled to be featuring a relative newcomer to underwater photography, and amazing all around person Mary Okner from Mary Bea Photography



1.     When did you start your photography journey? 

I actually fell in love with photography while I was in high school. I took black & white dark room photography every year and beyond the magic of watching the images develop in the baths I loved interacting with my subjects.  I was always photographing my little cousins or the children of teachers at my boarding school.

I continued my study of photography by way of graphic Design with a focus on digital imaging in college.  My first job out of college was in the field of photography as a photo assistant for an architectural/construction photography firm. After moving with my now husband across the country to California, I worked for a start up before before taking the leap to follow my passion and open my own portrait photography business in 2013

2.     How many years have you been in business?

I have been running a lifestyle family photography business for four years now.

3.     What gear do you use for your underwater sessions? 

I shoot underwater with an Ikelite housing for my 5d mark iii.  The lens extension and port I use with that allows me the flexibility to shoot with my 50 mm, 40 mm & 19-35 mm lenses.

4. What inspired you to try underwater photography?  Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t inspired to shoot underwater.  From disposable cameras growing up that had the plastic housing you could bring in the water to a housing I had for my Canon G10 in the early 2000’s, shooting in and around water has always fascinated me.  I continue to draw inspiration from fellow photographers, like those sharing their work on Underwater Kids. Their work drives me to challenge myself to become more proficient shooting underwater.

            5. Your images have such a beautiful use of light in them. What is your favourite time of the day to photograph? 

I love photographing underwater in the early to late afternoon. 

            6. Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography? 

For those just getting into underwater photography I would say: do your research and then do some more! 

I thought I had really done my due diligence before I committed to the big purchase of the Ikelite housing but it turned out that there were two different types of housings so the first port I purchased didn’t actually work with the housing I purchased and it was a frustrating & long process getting that all figured out when all I wanted to do was jump in the water!

Thanks so much Mary!!!  Check out some of her fabulous art below!  



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Meet Guest Moderator: Blakely Tombs

We are so excited to introduce you to Blakely Tombs of Crescent Moon Photography! She has been a part of our little community with  her fun and beautiful underwater images since the very beginning and we are so excited to have her join us as a guest moderator this week. Thank you Blakely and thank you for answering some questions!


When did you start on your photography journey?

Does high school count?!  I took a lot of art classes in high school and one of them was in photography.  I remember making a camera from a shoe box.  We learned to develop film in a dark room, etc.  It was so cool! Obviously I have switched cameras several times since then ;)


How many years have you been in business?

About 10 years.  I really started to get in to photography when I had my first daughter over 11 years ago.  I would also take  pictures of my friends kids just for fun, and then their friends would contact me wanting pictures as well.  When I realized I was taking pictures of people I didn’t know, I figured it was time to start a business! I am a former middle school teacher, so photography was a great way for me to still work with kids and be a stay at home mom at the same time. I’ve always needed a creative outlet, and photography fills that for me.


What gear do you use for your underwater sessions?  

I should mention that I don’t do underwater sessions for clients.  I’m a Nikon girl for my land sessions, but my underwater photography really is just for fun.  So for underwater pictures, I use an Olympus TG-4 (with or without the fisheye attachment) or I use a GoPro hero 5 black with a dome port to get the over/under shots.


What inspired you to try underwater photography?  Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

We love to travel as a family.  Last year we were traveling to Turks and Caicos and I wanted to have something that I could use snorkeling, playing on the beach, etc.  And we also put a pool in our backyard last year, so I figured it would be handy to have an easy camera to catch the moments out back.  That’s when I got the Olympus and I thought it worked out great!  You can toss it in your beach bag and not really worry about it!  

This summer we had two trips.  One to Key Largo and one to British Columbia.  We were planning to snorkel in Key Largo and we booked trips to go caving and  to go whale watching in British Columbia on what was basically a 700 hp zodiac type vessel! That’s when we decided to get the GoPro.  Again, something that is easy to just throw in your bag with you.  As a family, we are having fun with both cameras.

My oldest daughter is a year round swimmer, so we spend a lot of time around pools.  I’ve enjoyed taking pictures of her and her friends while they swim.  I love to make photobooks of my family, but most photographers kids don’t love taking pictures all the time.  Photographer’s Child Syndrome is real, y’all!  But I’ve found that taking pictures of them in the pool is ok!  They are having fun playing, and I’m still documenting their childhood.  I draw inspiration from them in watching them play and watching them do what they love to do.  And I draw inspiration from all the fabulous mama’s on instagram posting pictures of their underwater worlds.  The talent that is out there is mind blowing!  I love seeing it all!


Your images have such a beautiful use of light in them. What is your favourite time of the day to photograph?

That depends on the pool!  In my backyard, I like it later in the day.  I like when the sun is setting because that’s when I can get rays through the water.  I often get more colorful bokeh at that time of day too.  I like bright sun for larger bodies of water, though.  


Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography?

Just have fun!  And have patience.  It’s definitely different than shooting on land.  I don’t feel that I have the same control, but I go into it with an open mind and just enjoy being in the water.


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Meet Guest Moderator Tina Krafts

I am absolutely thrilled that a good friend of mine Tina Krafts from Tina Krafts Photography will be taking over our Instagram feed this week!  I got to know Tina through the National Association of Professional Child Photographers  where we are both members. Tina is an award winning newborn photographer and an all around amazing human being.  She was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself and her recent journey into underwater photography.

 When did you start on your photography journey? 

I have always had a camera in my hand from a very young age, but I got serious about learning the technical aspects of photography and advancing my skills when my kids were babies, as I wanted to be able to take my own beautiful photos of them. 


How many years have you been in business? 

I officially launched my business in 2013.

What gear do you use for your underwater sessions? 

Right now, I am using a Hero Go Pro 5 (and, occasionally, Olympus TG-4), while I save for housing for my DSLR


What inspired you to try underwater photography?  Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

From the first time that I saw underwater images, I was mesmerized by their magical appearance.  It seemed to me that there was some indescribable quality that simply could not be replicated on dry land.  Over/under shots were particularly captivating to me, as they allow the photographer to capture and show two distinct worlds simultaneously.
As I don’t live particularly close to the ocean or a lake, I assumed that underwater photography was not for me.  However, given that I spend a lot of time with my kids at the pool over the summer, I started thinking that just maybe I would give it a try. It turned out to be a fantastic way for us to spend time together and document our summer memories, and I have found that it really boosts my creativity. 

I am always inspired by the underwater work of my photography colleagues who have been doing this much longer than I have, of course.  Additionally, however, I think that the endless opportunities to be creative that exist with underwater photography challenge me to try new things every day – new locations, new techniques, different times of day, different lighting, etc.  


What is your favourite time of the day to photograph? 

I have taken many of my underwater images during the mid-day hours  simply because that tends to be the time when I am most likely to be at the pool with my kids (and that time of day makes it easy to capture brighter underwater images).  However, my favorite time of day for underwater photography is in the late afternoon, in the two-three hours prior to sunset.  The golden light is always so appealing, and the sky at that time is typically more colorful for those over/under shots.  In addition, when the sun is lower in the sky, it produces gorgeous pockets of light that are just striking for purely underwater images.


Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography? 

Honestly, I would say don’t be afraid to jump in, even if your ideal equipment isn’t in the budget at the moment.  And don’t be afraid to experiment!  As I mentioned previously, underwater photography offers unlimited opportunities for creativity!


Thanks so much Tina!  I cannot wait to see what your time with us is like!!  

Check out more of Tina Krafts Photography

website: Tina Krafts Photography

instagram: tinakraftsphotography

facebook: Tina Krafts Photography



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Meet Guest Moderator: Brooke Hamilton

We are so excited to introduce Brooke from Brandon, Floria to you this week! Learn a bit about her below and make sure to tune in to Instagram and say hello as she is our guest moderator next week!

1.     When did you start on your photography journey? 

I started my professional journey right as our identical twin boys turned three. Like many, it really started before the professional work took over though. In high school and college in particular, I was always the one in the group with a camera, always lagging behind. I have this need to document things through photographs. I honestly have a terrible memory. The worst! I think my need to document things, people, and places stems from my terrible memory.  Now I am still the girl in the back taking photos, but I am also a directing others through a hybrid of portraits and lifestyle photography.

2.     How many years have you been in business? 

I have been doing business as Hamilton Creek Photography for just over six years.

3.     What gear do you use for your underwater sessions? 

I started with a GoPro Hero3 over three years ago. It was a gift from a birth client.  It was love at first click for sure. I loved taking it with me, and the compact nature of it. Of course, I didn’t love not having complete control of the camera. However, one of my favorite underwater shots is still with that camera because of the moment I was able to capture with it. Then I upgraded to a Nikon 1 because it shot RAW and had a hard underwater case that was easy to use, too. The flexibility of throwing it into the beach or pool bag and using it for personal documentation was perfect for me at the time. I just could not fathom putting my D700 into the water, even as my back up camera. This year though, I decided to try the DiCAPac bag for my D700 with my 35mm Sigma Art lens.  I love having full control of the camera again.  I miss having the video component of being underwater though.  My goal is to eventually upgrade both my camera and to hard casing in the next two years, but for now, I use my underwater photography for 99% personal use, so I am happy with the gear I have.

4.     What inspired you to try underwater photography?  Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

Our children were my inspiration. We travel extensively, and after a trips to Australia, Hawaii, Thailand and all over the Mediterranean Sea, being able to capture the magic of them snorkeling and being surrounded by a huge ocean at such young ages inspired me to look into underwater photography more. Being able to document them more and more on our adventures has always been the driving force into learning more about underwater photography. We also live in Florida, where we swim year round. We are constantly at the pool and beach and I just love the quietness of underwater photography. Being underwater is so calming to me, that I just love it more every time.

5.     Your images have such a beautiful use of light in them. What is your favourite time of the day to photograph? 

Well, for my own pool I shoot in regularly, I actually love mid-morning light best. I love getting the sun streaming into our pool at that time of day best.  I love to play with the shadows and position myself between the subject and the sun for fun bokeh filled over-under shots best.  I mean, how can I not mention golden hour, too, because who doesn’t love a shot full of warmth?

For the ocean, I love starting about two hours before sunset until the sun goes down. I love to get the harsh shadow and light shots in the water because that is usually when the water itself is clearest and brightest. Then I love to use the backlight when I am shooting in the ocean. All summer it has been hard to stay at the beach until 9pm though, so I am looking forward to going to see a few more sunsets this fall before the weather is too cold!

6.     Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography? 

Find the light. Every time I get in the pool, whether I am familiar with that location or not, I find the most interesting light for that time of day.  The same goes for the ocean, move around, try different shots until you get what you love.

Thanks so much Brooke!

For a visual treat, check out her stunning images below!


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underwater editing in color - some quick tips

Our most asked questions often revolve around how to edit underwater photos, including how to get those skin tones right! I could easily write a whole book on this subject (and maybe one day we will) but for now here are some quick tips. Hopefully they'll help those just getting started and maybe if you've been at this for a while you'll learn a new trick or two as well.

There's a few things to keep in mind before taking the shot that will help you in post:

- water filters out the red light, hence why people turn into smurfs underwater. The deeper you go the more light gets filtered out so you'll get better skin tones closer to the surface.

- this is probably pointing out the obvious - shoot in the clearest water possible! Murky water turns your photos more muddy and makes it harder to correct in post. You can't control the ocean or other natural bodies of water, but if you shoot in a public pool, go early in the morning before the water turns into sunscreen soup.

- staying close to your subject also helps getting the clearest image possible.

- if you are shooting with a professional camera, shooting raw will give you the most flexibility to correct your images later

Now on to post processing!

It goes without saying, that as with any art, there are no hard rules and many ways to do things, and we all have a different vision. This is how I approach my editing, which of course doesn't mean it's the "right" way (for you), or the only way!

OK, moving on. So, I import my raw files into Lightroom and it looks something like this (actually, I run a home made preset on import, but SOOC would look like this):

Meanwhile my vision is more along the lines of this:

First, I want to put some of the contrast that's lacking into the image. I pull down the blacks, add some vibrance, and then play with the tone curve. You may have heard to crank up the clarity - I'm careful with that as it will also enhance any noise and artifacting in your image, so I usually only do a tiny bit of clarity.

Now on to the temperature and tint sliders to deal with color - but before I tell you what I do, I'll tell you what I don't do and why, though you may want to play with this (especially if you don't have photoshop).

Add a good amount of red/warmth and see what happens! Depending on what body of water you shoot in, your image might look ok (in a light pool, your background will likely go white at this point, but skin tones start to look more correct). I love deep, vibrant blues so this rarely works for me.

Some people use a radial filter to add warmth around the subject. I don't because I don't like the warm halo it creates in the water around the person.

Other people use adjustment brushes, again I don't because I don't find them very accurate in Lightroom, so I rather use photoshop.

So here is what I actually do -

first I adjust the image to get the best blue I can, without worrying about the color of the subject (they're usually looking very smurfy), and go to edit in PS.

Then, still in Lightroom, I make a virtual copy of the raw file, and now I adjust color for the subject, and go to edit that in photoshop too. If it's an under/over, I may make another copy and adjust for the "over" portion.

Then, once in photoshop, I bring the images into the same file and via layer masks merge the photos together - voila! Now you know my big secret ;-)

I do usually make additional adjustments - I've made myself some presets to further help the image pop, and sometimes I play with the curves in photoshop as well.

I always bring the photo back into Lightroom, where I may fine tune it before cropping and exporting (I may play with the saturation/luminance sliders in the blue/aqua tones, or add one more slight tone curve).

I'll get working on a more detailed post with some screen shots, but for now, hope this helps a bit and feel free to ask if you have any questions! Meanwhile, Amy's video is a great resource for detailed editing with layer masks in photoshop, so if you like check it out through the link below - 

See you in the water,


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Giveaway time - win an AxisGO housing!

We are so excited to team up with the awesome people at AquaTech Imaging Solutions to give away one of their new AxisGO underwater housings for the iPhone!

Head on over to Instagram to find our giveaway post to enter. And don't forget to tag some friends to double your chances of winning.

Good luck!



The beauty of black and white in a colour world....

As much as the water naturally screams colour to most people, there are times when I think an image is much improved by using a strong black and white.  It focuses the viewer on only the shapes and light playing underwater and takes away a lot of the distraction that can happen, especially in pools in the summer.

Here is a recent favourite of mine.  It was a very deep pool, but I shot it with my 17-40 mm lens at 17mm on purpose.  It was a crowded public pool, and I knew I wanted to maintain a sense of negative space around my subject, so I purposely chose a wider setting (typically I love my 35 mm).  I saw the light hit my subject a certain way, and I knew that was the moment I had been waiting for.  For processing I removed some pool debris, and the lines at the edge of the pool as I wanted a very clean look.  I think the sense of space all around him and the way the light hits him really adds to the story.  The back and white conversion, emphasizes the light and shadows, and for this edit, I used mainly LR, increasing the blacks, contrast and clarity, and adding a few radial filters to direct the eye.  

What do you think?  Is colour or black and white your go to underwater?  I will be releasing a video soon about how to edit using mainly LR in black and white - would love to hear what you'd like to learn!






meet guest moderator: Allison Gipson

We are so excited to introduce Allison from Oahu, Hawaii to you this week! Learn a bit about her below and make sure to tune in to Instagram and say hello as she is our guest moderator over the next few days!

When did you start on your photography journey?

I actually started photographing right out of college when I landed a job at a newspaper as a photojournalist. But my love for photography and the art of it didn’t develop until much later on in my career and when my time was done at the paper.

How many years have you been in business?

My business was created in 2013 and I have had the privilege to work with some pretty amazing families.

What gear do you use for your underwater photos?

I house my Nikon D810 with an Aquatech. I currently have a flat port for my 20mm 1.8 or my 35mm. I would love to eventually get a dome port.

What inspired you to try underwater photography?  Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

I grew up around the water. Living in Hawaii as a child and then swimming competitively all the way through college - I was in or around the water constantly. Now that we live in Hawaii - I always felt limited at the beach. We still spend so much time in and around the water and I wanted to take it to the next level. I honestly went into underwater photography with zero knowledge and wanting to learn everything about it. It seriously has motivated me in ways I could never really express. Also - I am really trying to make sure my voice is clear while shooting in and out of the water. I want that to be evident in all of my work and that has served as true inspiration - especially when learning something new.  

Your images have such a beautiful use of light in them. What is your favourite time of the day to photograph?

At the beach - I love to go early in the morning. Not only is it a great way to beat the crowds, but the water is still clear. Other than that - I love mid-afternoon and late afternoon shoot in the water. Especially at our pool.

Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography?

Rent the gear first. Not only is it a huge investment - you need to feel 100 percent confident in it. I rented one system for a weekend — and knew I was falling in love with underwater photography - but not the housing. Was it a bad housing? NO. No such thing - but for my personal needs, the type of shooting I would be doing and what I really, really wanted in my gear (BBF, dials, a good seal) I made sure to find exactly what I wanted. DO your research and ask questions! There are so many people who love underwater photography who want to help and talk about it! ASK. Don’t risk your gear if you are unsure.

Thank you so much for sharing about your photography journey with us Allison!

All photos copyright Allison Gipson.

The opinions and advice expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Underwater Kids



Meet guest moderator: Kelley Earhart

We're excited to have Kelley join us as guest moderator this weekend! Read on to get to know her and see some of her beautiful underwater photos!

When did you start on your photography journey?  

I started my photography journey almost 7 years ago when my oldest daughter was born. I got my first "big girl camera" and I began taking photos of my daughter when she was a baby. I fell in love with photography and loved the idea of capturing my daughter in normal day to day activities. Fast forward almost 7 years, 3 babies and probably a million photos later. Not a day goes by that I don't pick up the camera.  Since I can't freeze time, I love to document my children in their day to day activities. A way for me to always remember them at their current age.  

How many years have you been in business?  

I have been in business for a little over one year. I have been photographing my children for years, however took a leap of faith and started my own photography/graphic design business a year ago. It has been so much fun getting to meet and photograph so many wonderful families!

What gear do you use for your underwater photography?

Don't laugh... I use a GoPro Hero 3. I got it 3 years ago for the sole purpose of taking photos of my kiddos underwater. I had done some research and just wasn't so sure about "housing" or what the heck it even was at the time. The thought of bringing my big camera underwater totally scared me. The thought of using a case for my cell phone also totally scared me!  Sooooo.... after doing some research, I decided the GoPro was going to be my best option. I had watched countless videos on YouTube of people deep sea diving and photographing all kinds of extravagant fish in the deep blue sea.  The quality and colors were amazing. I thought if they could capture those images with the GoPro then I could certainly use it to photograph "my fish" in the deep blue sea. A.k.a... my kiddos in a not so deep swimming pool.

I was so excited to give it a try. At the time, I had a 2 year old and a 4 year old. My oldest was comfortable in the water and could swim on her own but my two year old needed assistance. I was still able to capture photos of her underwater. It just took more attempts.  If they can swim, obviously it gives you more time to shoot away and cross your fingers for a few good shots. Since there was not a screen on the back, I had no clue if I was actually getting the shots I had envisioned. I literally took photos until my battery almost died or until my kiddos were tired of swimming. I couldn't wait to get home each time to download and see all of the photos ( if any ) I had captured.

Three years later, I am still using that same GoPro.  I was wanting to upgrade to a newer model with a screen on the back.  After researching, I discovered that I didn't need to.  They now make a back pack option that will attach to older models.  It is the LCD screen that I had been wanting!  I purchased and was able to give it a try a few weeks ago on vacation!  I love it!  It is still challenging to really see clear underwater on the screen, but it does give me a better idea if I am actually aiming in the right direction! If you do not have one yet, hurry and go get one! I promise, you will love!

What inspired you to try underwater photography?  

As a former collegiate swimmer, I've spent a lot of time underwater.  A lot of time swimming laps.  A lot of time staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool. A lot of time thinking and daydreaming. There is something about the water that puts me at ease.  Almost like my comfort zone.  As a graphic designer/photographer the creative side of me loves the ability to capture light, color, shapes and patterns in the water.

Ok that was the artsy fartsy answer....  the real inspiration came from my kiddos. The second they get in the water they begin to shout "hey mom, watch this". This phrase is repeated over and over again. I always reply back and tell them how cool or awesome it was!!?!  Often times getting a response "you didn't see it"  or "you missed it".  What?!  I was totally watching the whole time... above water.  Apparently, that's why I was missing all of the good stuff.  I couldn't see it. Underwater photography inspired me to take a "deeper" look at whatever super duper awesome tricks my kiddos were actually performing underwater. I love to be able to capture these silly moments in the water in hopes that one day they will become cherished memories.

Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

I feel like my inspiration often times comes from my kiddos. Without them, I'm not sure I would have been inspired to pick up a camera and take photographs as much as I have. They inspire me to see things in a different light. See things through their eyes. I love capturing the joy of my kiddos in the water.

Your images have such a beautiful use of light in them. What is your favourite time of the day to photograph?  

My favorite time of day to shoot is right smack in the middle of the day. Bright sun. Blue skies. I love to shoot middle of the day because the light is amazing. I love the reflections and colors of the water. This usually works out nice because we spend our summers at the pool. Perfect time to play and swim with the kiddos and also capture candid moments of them in the pool.

Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography?

My advice would be to play around and have fun. You don't need the most expensive gear/housing to capture great images. I have an old school GoPro and in my opinion, it works awesome for someone wanting to give underwater photography a try. I don't have any fancy gear or gadgets to go along with it. I just hold it in my hand to shoot. I know that sounds silly, but there are some other sticks or wands that you can swim with that attach to the camera. I have yet to try any of those out.  You can capture a variety of styles with just the camera.  A favorite of mine are the over/under. I love the idea of capturing their tricks underwater that often times remain unseen from above. I have discovered that you do not need a dome for this style. I have never tried using one, but I do know that you can accomplish this same look without one.  After trial and error, I have found that some of my favorite over/under images were taken in a well lit pool without a lot of movement. All of my images have been captured in a public pool with lots of other swimmers in the water at the same time. I try to find a spot in the pool that is less crowded. A spot where the water is calm and still. I usually stay back a bit and photograph them from a distance. This allows the water to settle and also allows your subject to feel at ease and comfortable floating or swimming. Over/unders can be done up close as long as the water is calm. I love to try new things, different angles, different depths of water etc.  The best part of underwater photography is that you get to be a kid again and have fun in the pool.

I have only used my GoPro on my children and have yet to use on actual clients.  For me, since the GoPro is all that I know, I would probably go ahead and use that camera for underwater sessions.  That tiny little camera produces some fantastic images that are clear and crisp.  If you are wanting to branch out into this style of photography, I would highly recommend getting a a pair of goggles and a GoPro.  They are small, portable and super easy to use!!!  The quality SOOC is amazing.  I do edit/crop images in Photoshop.  Mostly adjust the white balance and add a tad bit of red or magenta to the images. This is all personal preference. Since I am shooting for fun and the subjects are my own children, I don't pay too much attention to my editing style.  It is fun to try different things. The possibilities are endless!mv

Thank you so much for sharing about your photography journey with us Kelley!

All photos copyright Kelley Earhart.

The opinions and advice expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Underwater Kids


meet guest moderator: Christi Allen Curtis

Next week, Christi will join Underwater Kids as a guest moderator for a few days, so we'd like to introduce her to you today with this fun interview!

All photos copyright Christi Allen Curtis

When did you start your photography journey?

I feel like, in a sense, I was always on a photography journey… I was born in Europe and we traveled a lot, my dad always had his old Yashica 35 mm camera and was constantly taking pictures of us. I have always loved photography, I went through an Ansel Adams phase in which I fell in love with B&W photography and growing up, I often had a camera with me to document my life with my friends and family. I bought my first SLR film camera in 1998 and graduated USF in 2001 with a Bachelor in Fine Art, focus in photography.  This started my professional photography journey. I love that my background was in film and darkroom work and later transitioned to digital, I feel as though I have traveled the gamut of photography, but there is so much to learn, and I am still on my journey!

How many years have you been in Business?

I have been in business for over 10 years.


What gear do you use for your underwater sessions?

I LOVE my Ikelite housing with dome port… I use my Nikon D700 with Nikon 20mm 2.8 lens in the housing.  When and if I need fill light I use the Ikelite Vega Video light.

I also use a weight belt, a good dive mask, and always have my anti-fog solution on hand.

What inspired you to try underwater photography? Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

I was inspired to try underwater photography when I had my daughter (now 11 years old) in infant survival swim lessons when she was young… I became friends with her instructor and she asked if I had ever thought about shooting underwater, well I hadn’t until that point and thought I needed to give it a try. By this time my daughter was swimming great so I used her as my model… the first time I went under and captured her swimming, the joy, the water, the blue, the reflection, the bubbles… I was HOOKED, in LOVE with the many aspects and even the challenges of underwater photography and became OBSESSED with learning more! I began to photograph at Kinder Swim Inc. (Where my daughter learned her survival and swim skills) and now 7 years later I still do underwater photography there, generally 4-6 times a year we have a day where people sign up for photos.  In the last 2 years I added another swim school where I photograph a few times a year, so between the two schools, they keep me busy and the children keep me inspired with their joy and energy!

I also love to photograph my own children in our pool and offer private underwater pool sessions as well as springs sessions, FL has many beautiful & natural springs and they offer amazing backgrounds.

Your images have such a beautiful use of light in them, what is your favorite time of day to photograph?

This is a tough one to answer as it totally depends on many things, such as the pool itself, the direction the pool faces affects the direction of light into the pool… Some pools I prefer morning for photographing and some pools I prefer later in the day before sunset.

-The springs I have photographed early morning and later afternoon.

I ALWAYS love to try and get sun flare when I can, I feel like it adds so much drama to the shot, but it can be really tricky! It’s always good to challenge yourself when shooting.


Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography?

If I offered advice to someone new to underwater photography, I would say, use good gear to protect your camera.  Always check your gear before going under, for example I lube my O-rings and test my Ikelite housing before every single shoot. 

I would also say shoot a lot, try every lighting situation, and angle to see what works best. Challenge yourself & be creative.

Get a weight belt, a good mask and anti-fog solution for your mask.*

Thank you so much for sharing about your photography journey with us Christi!

All photos copyright Christi Allen Curtis.

The opinions and advice expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Underwater Kids

tips and ideas for shooting underwater split images

If you've been following along on instagram, we've been sharing lots of fun split (or over/under) images! It's probably the underwater photography subject we get most questions about so sharing some tips and ideas!


Gear matters in this case - well a certain piece of gear. It's not impossible to get a split image with a flat port, but ideally you want a dome port - it helps with underwater distortion, keeps the water at a bit of a distance from your lens, and makes it easier to place the waterline where you want it. Domes are sold not just for the big professional housings, but for GoPros and phone cases as well.

Settings matter too - mainly your aperture. If you want both portions of the image in focus, you need to really close down your aperture, meaning a higher F-stop number. A minimum of F16 or even F22 are your friends here! If you don't care for both portions to be in complete focus, but would like the out of focus half to still be recognizable, you can open up a bit - F4 through F8 have served me well.


Now on to some ideas, because there are so many creative things you can do with overs/unders!

Obviously, the image doesn't have to be split down the middle and be half/half. It could be mostly underwater with a small portion of sky, palm trees or buildings - a hint of the surrounding environment to give the image a sense of place.


Or mostly above the water with a sliver of what's below and the viewer will feel like they're part of the scene.

It doesn't even have to be a straight line either - try catching (or making) a wave for your waterline!

Think about the story you are trying to tell with your image, and make choices to enhance it. Some stories are best told with everything in sharp focus. With others it helps to have a main sharp focus with out of focus supporting elements, lending depth to the image. You can also use split images to tell the whole story to the image, revealing a half otherwise obscured by the water. Or, tell two entirely separate stories in a single frame.

All images copyright Barb Toyama | Maui, Hawai'i

All images copyright Barb Toyama | Maui, Hawai'i

Possibilities are nearly endless so as always, experiment and have fun with it! Which are your favorite kind of over/under images? Share with us in the comments! And don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

See you in the water!

- Barb



A little before and after - underwater workshops

This is from an underwater maternity session I did as part of our "Pool Party" sessions last summer. What drew me in was the rays of the sun streaming down through the water and the moment. That mere hesitation before you push away from the side, a safe harbour, to explore the water. To me, it was much like the waiting for a new little one, and the waiting before you launch into something new. Both literal and metaphorical.

Part of underwater photography for me is learning to see the possibilities that exist in each picture and find my own way of seeing. Having a strong vision and learning how to execute it allows you to stay ahead and relevant. Copying what you have seen others do, is, well just that. Copying.  And you trail when you copy.

If you are interested in differentiating yourself in a competitive market, finding your own way of seeing, learning the skill, art and business of underwater photography join award winning photographer Barb Toyama and myself this summer. You'll hone your technical skills, including post processing, learn how to work with clients and set your vision free. To help support your learning, we are also including after the workshop support and business coaching for a total experience.  

Registration details can be found here.

Find your own voice always. Let us help you get there.

A little before and after so you see what I mean.



See you in the water,

Jennifer and Barb

meet IG guest moderator: Mali Workman

Mali will take over as guest moderator on Instagram this week, so we'd like to introduce her to you with this fun little interview!

When did you start on your photography journey? 

My first camera was a Christmas present when I was 7 years old. I’ve been in this journey for a very long time :)

How many years have you been in business?

My hobby turned into a business 12 years ago. 

What gear do you use for your underwater sessions? 

I shoot underwater with whatever gear is available to me at the time. A lot of times it’s just my Iphone in an Optrix case.  Other times I use my Sony A600, also in an underwater case.  I don’t have any underwater gear for my professional cameras because they feel too bulky to me.  I like to travel light and keep things as simple as possible.

What inspired you to try underwater photography?  Where do you continue to draw your inspiration?

Shooting around water and underwater came naturally to me, because that’s where I often find myself. My family enjoy swimming, water polo, surfing, snorkeling, SUP, Kayaking, etc. Most of what we do for fun involves water. Inspiration comes from watching how my kids’ relationship with water develops through the years. Water activities define so much of who they are. It’s also always a joy when clients share that love for water and want to incorporate it into their sessions.

Your images have such a beautiful use of light in them. What is your favorite time of the day to photograph? 

That’s a tricky question, because it depends on how clear the water is, and if I’m shooting above or underwater. Above water, sunset is the best time anywhere. Underwater in California oceans, I like the middle of a sunny day, when it’s very bright. In the Caribbean, where the ocean is clear and visibility is amazing,  I love a cloudy or rainy day.  There’s all kinds or weather and water clarity in between and I often find myself trying something new.   

Any advice you’d like to share for someone just getting into underwater photography? 

It’s a whole new learning curve that still throws me off sometimes. My advice is to embrace the challenges and mistakes along the way and have fun with it!

Thank you so much for sharing about your photography journey with us Mali!

All photos copyright Mali Workman.

The opinions and advice expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Underwater Kids

creating emotive underwater images

What draws you into an image and makes you linger? What sets art apart from the snapshot?

For me (and I'd guess most people), it's the connection a photo conveys, the emotions we feel, and the story it tells us. It appeals to our senses and draws us in. How do you go about creating images like that?

I believe the sheer fact of photographing in the water comes with a certain intimacy and vulnerability, which works to our advantage. Here are some ideas I use to instill more emotion and connection into my water sessions:

1 - Making my subjects feel comfortable. This applies especially in the water, as people may feel more "exposed" because, well, they are! When they feel comfortable and trust me, they open up, relax, and let me see more of their "self".

2 - Physical connection. It's a very human thing to connect by touch, so I consistently look for that physical contact. It doesn't always have to be loving hugs, sometimes it's playful or subtle. I prefer to let it happen naturally, as that is more my style, but it could certainly be more encouraged or directed.


3 - Eye contact. There's so much truth in the eyes, expressing the emotions a person is feeling, especially with children.

4 - Emotional connection. We not only connect physically but also emotionally, by sharing a laugh, a smile, or exchanging a knowing look. I love capturing this connection between family members.

5 - Light. I love using light to enhance and underline an emotion, whether it's bright back light or the soft glow of the setting sun.

6 - Details. Not all emotion is expressed by the eyes and face, other features reveal emotions too. Underwater photography offers such great opportunities for faceless photos! It's also fun to catch little details like hands, feet, or water droplets running down a bare back.

7 - Color vs. black & white. With some images, I "see" it either in color or in black & white when I shoot. With others, I think about the story I'd like the image to tell and choose accordingly. Personally, I love both. Black and white really enhances the more emotive images so I often choose it for connection images, while color goes with the mood of happy, fun images.

What are your favorite emotions to capture in the water?

- Barb

photography tips - shooting in the ocean (part 1)

With spring break coming up, some of you might be heading somewhere warm to enjoy the beach and ocean, and excited to photograph underwater. So I thought I'd share a few quick tips with you - let's dive right in!


Safety First

I cannot stress this enough. Know your (and your family's) swimming abilities. The power of the ocean is no joke, observe conditions and heed warning signs about rip currents, large surf, and other dangers. Rogue waves do happen. Don't turn your back to the ocean, and stay close to shore. Here in Hawaii we have the saying, "if in doubt, don't go out".

This image of my daughter is actually only a few feet form the shoreline, in waist deep water (my husband is holding her and hiding behind the wave). You don't necessarily have to go far out to get fun shots!

This image of my daughter is actually only a few feet form the shoreline, in waist deep water (my husband is holding her and hiding behind the wave). You don't necessarily have to go far out to get fun shots!


Try an over/under

Over/under, or split images, make for great story telling and are really fun! Think about the story you're telling, where you want the focus, and adjust your focal point and aperture accordingly.

Showing a hint of loving arms wrapped around a child adds connection and emotion to an image.

Showing a hint of loving arms wrapped around a child adds connection and emotion to an image.


Let go of control

So much is out of your control when shooting in the water, period. Especially in the ocean. The light, water clarity, stirred up sand, wind, waves, you name it. I try to not get stuck on preconceived ideas - keeping an open mind about what's possible allows me to be creative, instead of feeling limited by conditions I can't change.

Water clarity was pretty murky here - so I got really close to minimize the amount of water between my little client and the lens.

Water clarity was pretty murky here - so I got really close to minimize the amount of water between my little client and the lens.

Even worse water clarity with this session, so our plans to snorkel with turtles turned into boogie boarding and chicken fights - don't limit yourself to shooting only below the surface.

Even worse water clarity with this session, so our plans to snorkel with turtles turned into boogie boarding and chicken fights - don't limit yourself to shooting only below the surface.


Clean your gear

Always rinse your gear with plenty of fresh water after shooting in the ocean, whether you have a waterproof camera, big housing or an iphone case. Salt is corrosive and will eat its way through your gear, and sand grains lodged in o-rings can break the seal.


Get in the frame

Whether it's a special occasion or your everyday, don't forget to be present in your water photos! Hand the camera off to a family member, or take an underwater selfie. You will enjoy the memories and your kids will appreciate seeing you were there too.

This is a selfie I took at 6 months pregnant. I am so greatful to have this memory swimming in the ocean while pregnant.

This is a selfie I took at 6 months pregnant. I am so greatful to have this memory swimming in the ocean while pregnant.


And most importantly, have fun and don't forget to share your ocean photos with us!

- Barb

Featured images from Instagram - February

We love our underwater community on instagram and all the gorgeous, creative work you share with us there. Here's just a sampling of the features from the past few weeks.

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Put a little chaos in your soul....underwater maternity sessions

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star

         Friedrich Nietzsche

As an artist, everything I do is centred around the belief of challenging the status quo and rethinking what is possible. Underwater maternity sessions are like a mystical dance where light plays with movement, bubbles and the unexpected. It's a place where the chaos of creation meets universal magic and anything is possible.  

For me, thats where offering underwater maternity sessions comes in.  It allows me to push the limits of a traditional maternity session and differentiate my business., while creating unique prices of art for my clients that they cannot get from many other photographers.  

There are a few tips to working with maternity clients under water which have served me well.

1. Prepare your clients well for the session. If you haven't already signed up for our newsletter, there is a free tip sheet that we send you when  you do! 

2. Take breaks often.  Its more tiring thank you think and its important that your client is safe at all times.

3. Bring in fun dresses, materials and clothes, BUT make sure you test them first. Sometimes the lightest looking materials are really heavy and hard to use.

4. Embrace "failure". Learning underwater photography has been very liberating as I have found so much beauty in what I would have previously found to be a "failure".  Thats where the magic happens!

5. Elevate your game. When you first start out, you may be happy with the fact ANYTHING turned out. Challenge yourself and push yourself more. I see lots of photographers who plateau here and never grow beyond "getting the shot". Check out our workshops for opportunities to learn more! 

6. Have fun and embrace the chaos....its all a part of the journey.  



Jan 30th-Feb 5th: Featured Images from Instagram

Another great week over on our #underwaterkids Instagram feed!  Just look at these gorgeous underwater photography photos featured!


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Behind the Scenes Video of an Underwater Kid's Photo Session

Hello everyone! 

I know Jennifer and Barb will agree, we get asked to see a behind the scenes ALOT these days!  So since I'm here in Texas, where the temps are in the mid to high 70's in almost February, I decided to put together a little glimpse into a typical underwater child photography session with me.  Everyone is different, but professional underwater sessions with me include about an hour in the pool, allowing for a few much needed breaks for both myself and my subjects.  I will typically get at least 20 or so final images per shoot. However, if my subject is really comfortable and direct able in the pool and/or there are two or three subjects during a shoot, I can easily achieve double that amount of final edited images.  You might be thinking, wow, 50 keeper shots.  Keep in mind a full gallery for me includes a wide variety of different shots.  Some are more traditional and some are more 'outtakes', but outtakes that are still overall, great shots.  In addtion, lately I will also include a couple of more what some would call 'artsy' shots, focused on just the bubbles or a few where the subject is more of an accent and not the focus. For me, the preparation I go through for these sessions and the work during and the post processing, it is not currently worth it for me to offer smaller sessions.  You must decide what works for you.  What works for me is offering my clients full galleries of a wide array of different shots.  To achieve this, I need the extra time in the pool.  

A big thanks to friend, Susan with who shot the video using my goPro. She was a trooper considering she'd never shot a video underwater before.

I did the editing myself.  As a newbie in this area, I'm still learning lots about this whole new world of video editing, but having some fun along the way!

Hope you enjoy the video!  Stay tuned. I'll be sharing some of the final images from this session in the near future!  You will for sure want to see!   :-)

Thanks y'all!