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Underwater Images: How Does Photography Fit into Marine Science?

29 January 2021

Discovering 71% of the planet, about 95% of the ocean remains unexplored. What’s down there? Oceanographers are the ones who frequently ask this question but are often not able to give answers. Nevertheless, now more than ever, we have tools and technologies to explore the depths of the ocean, and underwater imagery occupies a special place in it. 

Underwater Images | Ragnar

Why is Underwater Images So Important? 


  • Helps document underwater life

Long story short, marine photography helps scientists to document underwater life with all its diversity before many species disappear. Being an underwater photographer gives unique access to various marine amenities: coral reefs, stunning fish and other animals and organisms, and fabulous plants. 

Underwater photographer
  • Helps sex the species

Marine photography documents hundreds of species that inhabit the local reefs, and it extends better understanding and knowledge of underwater life. Besides, through photography, it’s possible to observe and record the reproductive cycles of pygmy seahorses. With the help of very close-up photos, a raised circular pore in females and slit-like openings in male species are shown.

Marine photography - knowledge of underwater life
  • Easy to review over time

The camera is relatively easy to use, even by amateurs, but it gives very professional high-quality results on the macrofauna. When scientists need to examine underwater objects, they review specific photos they took early and go back to them over time. The high-quality photo allows marine biologists to identify species without disturbing them and removing them from water.

Marine photos - examine underwater objects
  • Helps examine underwater phenomena

Not only underwater photos are useful but also videos. With the help of underwater video, observing the behavior of ocean inhabitants becomes easier. It’s also used to observe hydrothermal vents and underwater volcanic eruptions, which are mesmerizing phenomena.

Underwater photos - fish

Why is Camera Effective in Exploring Marine Life?

To monitor underwater life, marine scientists use underwater imagery as a useful additional tool. It assists in the designation and management of specific habitats. As a difficulty for acquisition and monitoring, underwater areas become more approachable for scientific observations with marine life photography. Why?

Shortly, underwater imagery is flexible and simple enough for usage in coastal and offshore areas, and it’s a perfect complementary tool in monitoring the changing trends of seabed fauna. But let’s dive a bit deeper into why underwater cameras are so helpful:

Scientific observation using photography of marine life
  • Cameras have optic systems

With the help of a camera, marine scientists can observe a large enough field for habitat description. It’s located about 60 cm above the seabed. In such a way, since a camera has no contact with the seabed, it can monitor a large variety of species, both small and large, even on huge distances.

Marine photos - seabed
  • Camera photos allow calibrating of the system

Importantly, a professional camera has a calibrating system, which helps to measure the fauna if necessary. While testing a specific area covered by the camera, scientists just need to take underwater images of a submerged grid and give the focus above.

Underwater shots with a professional camera
  • Cameras facilitates images acquisition

A camera attached to the sled is placed underwater, taking into account specific coordination, depth, and the length of a cable. When the camera is located on flattened areas, photos can be taken at different intervals. So, at the end of such an operation, marine scientists receive a set of underwater images.

Underwater images for marine scientists
  • Photos analyses are easier 

After photo acquisition, marine scientists import photos from the SD card into a digital space such as Adobe Lightroom. Then, it’s easier to classify them and label them with particular tags.

There can be a vast number of photos taken underwater, but not all of them are chosen to be analyzed. Being organized in a sequence of five, only one or two photos from a sequence are picked, those that have the best quality.

Underwater photos best quality

Hurdles Underwater Imagery Faces 

Underwater imagery isn’t a perfect but beneficial tool in discovering the ocean’s depth secrets. For instance, out of 500 underwater life images taken on the seafloor, only 190 photos are actually exploitable. It’s only 38%.

Being spoiled by strong bottom currents, many photos have a quality that is unsuitable for the survey. Besides, the same currents may move underwater cameras and change the viewing angle. Thus, sharpness and quality are negatively affected.

Fortunately, thanks to advanced processing software, we can recover some photos, but the quality may remain unsatisfactory.

Underwater life images

Are You Fond of Underwater Images as We Are?

We see plenty of mind-blowing underwater imagery throughout the Internet. Enjoying such fantastic picturesque looks, we don’t even imagine that they can be used for scientific purposes. But as we’ve already, underwater imagery is very helpful for observing and monitoring marine life.

Taking such photos is an exciting experience. If you want to be part of underwater photography, join in our next marine expedition. Let’s have fun among colorful fishes and coral reefs!

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