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A Guide to Color Filters for Underwater Photography

Improve your underwater photos and videos with color filters.
By Brent Durand | Authored On July 8, 2021
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A Guide to Color Filters for Underwater Photography

Pink and orange color filter stick off the lens of a small action camera

Filters help bring topside color to the depths.

Courtesy Backscatter

Color filters are a useful option for underwater photographers who want to record accurate color at depth, especially when using smartphone housings or action cameras.

How Filters Work

Light is lost as you descend in the water column; as a result, your eyes see everything with a blue or green tint. Your camera records this tint as well. Cameras constantly measure the color temperature (warmth) of the scene and calculate the white balance needed. A red filter will change the color temperature measured by the camera, helping it choose a more accurate white balance underwater.

Types of Filters

Red filters are the standard for underwater use, but filters for snorkeling and green water exist too. Depending upon the housing and camera type, filters may fit on the lens port, screw onto the lens inside the housing, or flip with a lever in front of the lens inside the housing. GoPro flip adapter kits attach to the lens port and allow you to flip one or two filters up or down if you want to switch between filters and video lights on the same dive.

Tips for Using Filters

There are certain situations where red filters may produce extra red tint or muted colors. You can avoid this by reviewing your footage and adjusting your scene as necessary. Shoot with the sun at your back to ensure the scene is well-lit.