Nature is a wild and wonderful backdrop for shooting photos and video. The elements are unique in both the way they appear on screen and how they’re captured on camera. Nowhere is this more evident than with the art of shooting beneath the waves. The sheer physics that distinguish water from air make it necessary to adhere to different shooting techniques to get optimal footage.
So if your next project is submergible, don’t hold your breath! Here are a few tips to help your project rise to the surface.
Both you and the camera need to put on a swimsuit! For you, that might mean a bikini or a wetsuit, but for your camera, it means a thoroughly watertight case, or “housing.” Which protective housing you use depends on the type of camera. You can generally find generic housings or specific branded cases online—Amazon and BHPhotoVideo.com are good places to start. Cameras like GoPro are ready-made to use underwater—they come in a waterproof case that can be submerged almost 200 feet.
Steady as she goes. Things move differently in water than they do in the air. Water is thicker and objects have to fight harder to move through it, including you and your camera. Trying to follow action underwater manually or using the zoom, especially if you’re trying to capture underwater wildlife that are designed by nature to move through water, won’t get you viable footage. It’s too hard to coordinate movements and get exact shots. It will make your viewers seasick! When you hit record, just let the action happen in front of the camera. The resulting footage will be inherently stunning.
Go toward the light.
The deeper you go under the surface of a natural body of water, the less light you’ll have to work with while shooting. Unless you have an encased light or two that work when submerged (which can be costly), you’ll need to stay fairly close to the surface to get good light. While this may seem like a limitation, it actually can afford you more creativity and lead to some truly beautiful shots.
Be in the red.
As light enters water, the liquid absorbs the colors that make up the light, one piece of the spectrum at a time. The first to get swallowed are the reds, which causes the resulting footage to appear more green or blue than you desire. To combat the color distortion, you can either use a red filter, submergible light, or attempt to adjust it in post using your editing software.
*This post was originally published on Jan. 8, 2014. It has since been updated.
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