How Scuba Divers See Color Change Underwater

Color Change Underwater
1 Jun 2019

How Scuba Divers See Color Change Underwater

Because water is roughly 800 times denser than air, it absorbs light extremely fast. This makes the struggle real for underwater photographers. Underwater colors appear duller and duller the deeper you go, with certain colors fading faster than others. Keep reading to find out how color absorption works underwater and how you can make the most out of your underwater photos. You may have retained this information from your diving theory or have experienced it from taking certain courses.

Loss of Underwater Colors

The deeper you dive, the more unsaturated colors will become. This may surprise you, considering the vibrancy of colors you’ve seen in underwater photos.This happens because water absorbs light, which filters out color. But your brain will play tricks on you. The human brain’s ability to compensate for colors by memory will allow you to see colors that the standard camera setup will not.  It’s common for scuba divers to marvel at what they see on their dives, and then be disappointed when they return to the surface and look at the photos they took. A camera does not have the capability of the human brain. It shows things as they are. And the fact is, colors disappear fast underwater. And they get duller and duller the deeper you go.

What Colors Disappear First?

Colors with longer wavelengths have lower energy. These are the colors that disappear first. The best way to remember this is to recall the colors of the rainbow. Remember ROYGBIV from school? That’s right – red is the first to go. It disappears at depths as shallow as 15 feet (5 meters). The next to follow is orange, which starts to fade at 25 feet (7 meters). Yellow is next, disappearing at 35 feet (10 meters) followed by green at 70 feet (20 meters). Blue and purple are the last to go because they have the shortest wavelengths and higher energy.

What Else Affects Color Absorption?

There are other factors that have an impact on what you see underwater. First of all, it’s important to note that objects in water will appear 25% closer and 33% bigger than they really are. This has to do with the refraction index of water being much higher than that of air. The weather and the time of day will also have an effect on color absorption underwater. For taking good photos underwater, you want as little reflected light as possible. Windy weather causing choppy water will reflect a lot more light than calm waters. And the setting or rising sun from the horizon will reflect more than the overhead sun on a clear, sunny day. So, the best conditions and time for underwater photography are a calm, sunny day between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, with 12:00 noon being prime time.

How to Take Good Underwater Photos

Regardless of the time of day or weather conditions, the deeper you go, the more color you’ll lose. To guarantee high-quality underwater photos, you’ll have to splurge a bit on equipment. White light will help to restore the color spectrum. For professional underwater photos, it’s recommended to use one or two strobes, special filters, and video lights to make sure your camera will do the scene justice.

To Summarize

Don’t be surprised if underwater colors start to fade on a deep dive. Even the brain can only compensate for so much; the deeper you go, the duller things will appear. But this doesn’t take away from the experience. The right camera equipment will cut through the absorption. And either way, you’ll still be able to see a whole new world underwater. Sign up for one of our scuba courses to see for yourself. We can prepare you for the local environment. Scuba diving in NJ has a lot to offer. Contact us to learn more about taking an advanced course at Dutch Springs, PA.