How To Survive an Underwater Wedding

February 4, 2020

By Art & Story Studio

We have certainly had our share of adrenaline-inducing wedding photography experiences over the years: From shooting with a herd of deer amidst the Scottish Highlands to covering a traditional Cypriot wedding with 1,000 guests in 104-degree heat, we have done it all.

Or so we thought. Nothing would demand our precision, flexibility and sense of adventure like a wedding that was 4,000 miles away from home and 32 feet underwater.

Shooting an underwater wedding has been a dream for us for years. We started scuba diving around the same time we dove into wedding photography (no pun intended). Naturally, it didn’t take us long to start dreaming about combining our two passions. Our current portfolio reflects underwater shoots in swimming pools and in shallow seawater, but shooting an entire ceremony with a handful of wedding guests deep below the St. Lucia surface on a seabed would be a real challenge for sure. 

The good news is, we lived to tell the tale. Here are some helpful tips we learned during this amazing experience under the sea.

Choose the Location

Surprisingly, choosing the dive location is as important as choosing the right venue on land. Not every site is as beautiful or accommodating as the next. Although the seas and oceans are vast and there are plenty of possibilities, finding a suitable location for an underwater wedding will vary depending on where you are in the world. Whether you’re shooting on a seabed, in an underwater cave or on a shipwreck, you will need to consider your surroundings and how they will affect the outcome of your imagery. 

Let’s consider sand. Although it looks refreshingly pure in photographs, it is more reflective and there is a possibility that the water will get murky quickly. Will your camera suffice, or do you need to bring lights?

Let’s also consider your positioning. What about stabilizing yourself? Will you be able to rest your knees on the bottom of the seabed or will you have to float with your camera while taking photos? For this wedding, the divers from Eastern Caribbean Diving held the bride and groom in place throughout the ceremony. But it’s not something we would have thought of before. How comfortable are you doing that? You may consider bringing a second shooter or assistant along to hold you in place while you are taking photos just as our bride and groom did. 

Consider the Marine Life

It goes without saying: You will be taking incredible photographs of an entirely different world full of exquisite creatures. The last thing you want to do is damage delicate corals or cause any other upset to the local ecosystem. By working with a reputable diving company, you can learn about local marine life and how not to disturb it in the location of the shoot. And if you are not too familiar with life under the sea, they can also help point out photography must-haves! 

Use Natural Light

It is much easier to capture ambient light near the surface. This means that the deeper the dive, the less natural light and less color you have to work with. If you want to shoot without any lighting equipment, like we did, consider things like the time of the year, the time of day, the depth of the dive and the weather. And of course, make sure you know the limitations of your camera sensor. Your underwater images may require a lot of editing (especially if you’re diving deep where there’s less color), and using ISO that is too high may make your images fall apart in post-production. For our wedding, shooting at f/4, 1/640th of a second and ISO 400 worked perfectly.

Consider Who Else is Being Hired

Like traditional land weddings, it is important to know who else will be documenting the wedding alongside you. Did the couple hire a videographer? If so, where will they be set up? Are there any guests that are trying to snag an epic shot with their DSLR? Those logistics are the same for underwater weddings. However, you cannot easily walk to a new spot to get an uninterrupted shot. For us, it was a GoPro on a selfie stick that saved us. It is important that you are aware of what will be out and about in your shots and what you might have to swim around. 

You Can’t Talk Underwater

Shocking, we know. But when it comes to photographing a wedding, it adds another layer of complexity during the shoot. How will you communicate with the videographer, second shooter, registrar, officiant or the bride and groom? Agreeing on some basic hand signals before the dive is a great way to communicate 32 feet below the surface.

Everything Will Happen Very Fast

As seasoned pros, we all have had the quick wedding that wraps up in ten minutes. Whoa, how did that just happen? Well, underwater weddings are like that…but faster. The dive was 11 minutes long and once everyone was situated on the seabed, the ceremony lasted only five minutes. That means you have very little time for tweaking settings, lights or changing position. Reviewing the officiant’s timeline before the dive can help give you an idea of what is going on during the ceremony. Perhaps ask the officiant to use hand signals as well. Oh, and be prepared for the first kiss to pop up out of nowhere! 

Prep and Backup to the Next Level 

We decided to do a couple of extra dives in the run-up to the wedding to build back our confidence and make sure our buoyancy skills were on point. Like preparing for an epic mountain hike wedding, it is important to physically prepare for what’s to come. 

Make sure you dive with the same equipment before and on the day of the wedding. You don’t want to have any last-minute surprises like we did when one of our BCDs (buoyancy control device) started leaking air underwater. Eek! Gratefully, all was well. But it did re-emphasize the importance of practicing with the same equipment beforehand, both with scuba-diving gear and with your underwater camera.

Be Safe 

As adventurous as it is, never underestimate the risks of scuba-diving, let alone photographing underwater. Make sure there are safety divers present and you have surface support in case something goes wrong. People can react in unpredictable ways underwater. Even a shallow dive can end in a tragedy without proper preparation. Other things to consider are sea currents, boat traffic and everything else that may cause potential danger. Consult with the dive company so you are safe. 

Realize That What Can Go Wrong, Will

So, how did our first underwater, last-minute wedding on the other side of the world go?

Well, we hardly had any time to prepare, plans changed right up until the morning of the wedding, our camera housing almost got flooded, one of our BCDs was leaking air and another diver almost kicked out our air supply during the ceremony. And it was completely and utterly worth it! We came back with more breathtaking images than expected and most importantly, the bride and groom loved them. They burst into tears after receiving the photos (in a good way). 

In the end, we are grateful that our years of wedding photography had taught us the precision, flexibility and sense of adventure necessary to make this experience work. It was the most challenging wedding we ever shot, but certainly, it won’t be our last!


Nikon D850
Ikelite Housing 

Vendor Credits

Saint Lucia Tourism Authority
Eastern Caribbean Diving
Julie G — The Travel Agent Next Door

Anna and Andy of Art & Story Studio in Cambridge, England, are wedding photographers who are head over heels in love with each other, obsessed with the art of photography, and lucky to live in (when not traveling) a charming yet never quite completed cottage in Suffolk, along with two Scottish Fold kittens, Einstein and Destiny.