Getting into the Underwater Photography Business with Karen Bagley

Getting into the Underwater Photography Business with Karen Bagley

What inspired you to take your photography business underwater? 

I love being underwater! As a child, I had no fear of water. Around the age of 9 I started to develop severe ear infections from any water getting into my ear, and was directed by a doctor to avoid going underwater at all. I even had to use earplugs in the shower! For years I didn’t go underwater, and it was heartbreaking.

When I was about 26 I had a client approach me and ask if I would be willing to do a maternity session underwater. I thought about it and said, "YES! Let's try it!"

To my surprise I didn’t have any issues with my ears after that session at all. So began my obsession with underwater. It was like I was reunited with a friend I had not seen for over a decade!

I am in love with the challenge and reward that underwater photography allows me to have. I am in love with being a part of an underwater world and being able to show the world what it’s like underwater.  

Karen Bagley Underwater Photography Ikelite

What’s the first step to getting into the underwater photography business?

Make sure you love being underwater first and foremost! When you know without a doubt that this field is for you… GET THE GEAR! Invest in your underwater business. Your gear is 80% of what makes for a successful underwater photography session.

Once you have your gear, grow that portfolio! Shoot, shoot and shoot some more. The more experience you have will only perfect your craft!

You provide online mentorships. Were you mentored? 

I was not mentored… I had the ability to submerge myself in photography conferences and became wonderful friends who were beginning their underwater journey too. It was very new when I began so, the resources were few and far between. One of those photographers was fellow Ikelite Ambassador Jenna Martin. We bounced everything off of each other, struggles, ideas, techniques… just about everything.

Karen Bagley Underwater Photography Ikelite

How do you think mentoring would have changed your career path?

Had I been mentored I know it would have gotten me to my goals quicker! Hands down. I believe strongly that there is no shame in having someone who has been down the same road you have been down, giving you the help you need to become successful. 

What’s the difference between a photo mentorship and a photo workshop? 

Having a mentorship is one-on-one help. If there is a specific area you struggle in a mentor is going to focus on what you need to get better in those struggling. 

A workshop is a group setting; you will be learning the general information on the subject. It is not as personal as having a mentor, but workshops allow you to develop friendships with photographers in the same niche! This is awesome because you have someone (like I did) to reach out to and bounce ideas and problems off of each other!

There are strong pros with both mentoring and workshops. You have to self-examine and see what is best for you and your business! 

Karen Bagley Underwater Photography Ikelite

How can you tell if someone has what it takes to make it in the photography business?

I think anyone has the potential to “have what it takes,” to establish an underwater photography business. Regardless of where you live, or what you photograph. You have to know the work that is ahead of you and embrace the journey.

I will say it again… You have to LOVE being underwater. Your love for the challenges involved must be greater than wanting to do something simply because it is cool.

Doing any photography simply because you think it is neat and would like to try it, will never last. There is too much work involved, that’s why that love has to be so deep you will not accept anything else. The feeling that you have to do this and you will not accept failure. That unending passion is the key ingredient to any successful business, Underwater Photography included.

Karen Bagley Ikelite Ambassador

Do you also photograph for pleasure? Do you do shoots with your family?

ABSOLUTELY! I love taking my kiddos underwater and photographing them! I also have a slight obsession with underwater artwork (you should see my walls in my home). In particular the wildlife in our amazing oceans has me mesmerized! Photographing is not just my career it’s my life. It is rare to catch me without my camera.


Additional Reading

Online Mentorship with Karen Bagley

Event | Diving Into Underwater Workshop | June 14-15, 2019

Underwater Maternity by Karen Bagley

Karen Bagley Ambassador Profile


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