Important Readers Note: All the photo’s displayed in this blog post have been taken with a GoPro action camera as proof that good underwater photography goes above and beyond the scope of the camera.
As a diver, you know as well as I do that scuba diving is not a cheap hobby.
Once you factor in getting your certification, purchasing equipment, servicing equipment, filling your tank, and traveling to and from the dive site, this underwater hobby can run you well over budget. And that’s not even batting an eye at underwater camera gear.
For those who are starting out in underwater photography, it simply isn’t justifiable to break your bank account all to capture a few memorable images.
In fact, most aspiring photographers start out with a small compact camera or a mobile phone in a waterproof casing. And the truth is when it comes to shooting great photos underwater, you don’t necessarily need the cream of the crop equipment. Practice, composition, lighting, and post-processing can go a long way into helping you get that picture-perfect shot.
Enter the world of GoPro…
GoPro is arguably one of the most well-known video action cameras on the market.
This compact, versatile camera is small, affordable and has both video and photo capabilities. Its simplicity and ease of use are amazing when it comes to action pack sports and rugged outdoor adventures.
On top of being a hardy easy-to-use camera, GoPro also has an underwater housing that enables dive enthusiasts like us to take this little camera underwater.
GoPro as a dive camera? Absolutely.
GoPro is an affordable and easy way for the average person to capture amazing underwater footage. As a new underwater photographer, you need to work within GoPro’s limitations and play to its strengths.
Here are 10 different ways that you can improve your underwater photography and get the most out of your GoPro:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The number one way to improve your underwater photography no matter which type of camera you are using is to be an experienced diver.
Gaining control of your buoyancy and learning to move slowly and methodically are elements imperative to good photography, but they also aren’t mastered overnight. I spent more than ten years scuba diving before ever picking up a camera. You definitely don’t need to wait as long as I did, but do practice and log your bottom time to gain these critical skills.
Read More on Learning to Scuba Dive:
Thinking about sprouting gills and making the plunge into the underwater world? Find out if you’re cut out to become an Open Water scuba diver.
Technology changes so much year to year and camera equipment is no exception.
GoPro has come such a long way since back in 2004 when they launched their first model. The cameras have become better, smaller and even more user-friendly if you can imagine. Whether your taking pictures or taking video when comparing GoPro’s such as the Hero3, Hero4 or Hero5 to the newer Hero6 there is a significant difference in the color, stability and crisp quality of the shots.
GoPro HERO6 Black: The GoPro HERO6 Black is a waterproof digital action camera for travel with touch screen, 4K HD video and 12MP photos. This camera is waterproof to 10m (33ft) without a housing and delivers vastly improved image quality when compared to older models.
One of the first things you will probably notice after reviewing your GoPro photo, and video footage is that everything is sooooo shaky.
That’s because unlike on land when you are underwater, you are battling a few more forces than just gravity. You need to consider buoyancy, tides, currents, depth… It can be tricky, we know!
A great tool for photo and video stability is a double-handed tray. It may not seem like much, but it can make the world of difference to your media. Our favorite tray is the Ikelite Digital Camera Tray with Dual Handles.
A stabilizing tray is excellent for photography and videography, it allows for smooth underwater footage and provides a point of attachment for arm or lighting options.
Camera Tray with Dual Handles: The Ikelite digital camera tray with dual handles is the perfect addition to your underwater photography collection. This light aluminum tray works for small scale action cameras, but can also comfortably hold larger professional cameras for when you upgrade.
Dust, dirt and grim have an uncanny knack for making their way into the tightest and most inconvenient places – your GoPro housing and lenses included.
In order to maintain your equipment’s ability to record top quality media, it’s essential to thoroughly clean both the inside and outside of your lenses and housing after each use. Nobody likes water smears on the lens or salt stains messing up the camera focus. Not only that but cleaning your equipment will also extend the life of your GoPro.
Those split level photo’s sure are something pretty right? I love how shots can bring together the magnificence of land and the underwater world in a single frame.
Taking a stunning over/under picture with your GoPro is a relatively simple concept, but it involves investing in a dome port that moves the water away from the lens, therefore, increasing the field of view. There are plenty of different dome ports on the market, most of which will do a great job at getting you that split level photo. Our choice of over/under GoPro accessory is the Shoot 6” Underwater Dome Port.
A couple of important concepts to keep in mind when shooting above and below the water pictures:
Try not to get the top of the dome port wet. Water droplet on the lens can be tricky to remove without a super absorbent cloth, especially when you’re in the water shooting.
Create separation in your photo by having something underwater in the foreground of the frame and action on the surface (or vice versa).
SHOOT 6″ GoPro Underwater Dome Port: The SHOOT 6″ Underwater Dome Port is designed for GoPro HERO 5&6 Black models. This camera lens hood is waterproof up to 30m (98ft) and comes with the housing and waterproof case accessories.
It’s no secret if you’ve read our Beginner Guide to Underwater Photography, light and color get lost in the water column the deeper you go. When photographing underwater with a strobe less GoPro, staying at a depth above five meters works well at retaining almost all of the vibrant natural color.
Besides staying shallow, it is also a good practice to keep the sun at your back which helps to illuminate a subject (unless you’re shooting silhouettes).
Read More about Basic Underwater Photography:
If you are new to the underwater photography scene, here are some beginner tips and tricks that will get you well on your way to bringing your camera to a place where most people would never dream of taking theirs.
As much as we would love to stay in the shallows, with scuba diving, you never stay close to the surface. If you are heading into deeper water or want to take your GoPro shooting a step further; invest in some artificial lighting.
Light is a great tool that can enhance your image sharpness and bring back warm colors that are often lost at depth. It can also expand your shots making your subjects pop and separating the background from the foreground. Our lighting choice is the Kraken Hydra Dive Light but if you’re not quite ready for the big lights, Suptig Waterproof Light is a good beginner option.
Tips & Tricks: How many lights to get? One light works decently for shooting close macro stuff, but two lights are much better. Especially for wide angle because you need to position your lights further away, creating shadows and dead zones that need to be filled with a second light.
It is important to note that having light is not without its restrictions. Generally, a light beam range is only a few feet (1 meter).
Kraken Sports Hydra Dive Light: The Hydra 5000 WSRU is an all in one photo and dive light with wide, spot, red, and UV modes. This light is created by Kraken Sports a Canadian based company.
You know how everything adopts green and blue hues underwater? Well, that’s mainly because red, orange and yellow colors are the first thing to fade from the water column at depth.
The easy fix? Use color correcting filters such as red, orange and magenta lenses in water from 3-25 meters (10-80 feet) to put some color back into your washed out blue/green footage.
Important Note: Filters and lights should not be used at the same time or pictures will appear very red!
A more advanced fix? The newer GoPro cameras (HERO5 and HERO 6) can shoot photos and videos in RAW format. What is RAW you might wonder? Shooting in RAW gives you high quality and flexible editing when it comes to your photo’s and videos. Instead of getting .jpg format media it will save as a .gpr.
This format allows you to shoot your footage and bring the media into editing software such as Photoshop or Lightroom to color correct and apply other image editing techniques.
GoPro Lens Filter Kit: This diving lens filter kit for GoPro HERO 5/6, enhances colors for underwater video and photography conditions. The package contains a clip-on filter holder, 5 filters for various underwater conditions, a tether, a cleaning cloth, and a quick start guide.
To make a long story short, GoPro is an extremely wide angle camera. Therefore, anything you shoot with a GoPro will naturally look further than it actually is.
Great underwater imagery has a way of telling a story and connecting the viewer. For people and animal photos, it’s important to make sure the subjects eye is in focus and stands out. For landscape shots having something that fills the forefront generally does the trick. To immerse people in your GoPro shots, you will need to get extremely close to your subject – I’m talking personal bubble close when possible.
A good rule of thumb for people and animal photography – try getting close enough that you can see the whites of their eyes.
Jumping or rolling into the water when your camera is on rapid fire captures sensational in-the-heat-of-the-moment footage, as does rapid fire for split level photography on a rough day.
But once your underwater, Joey and I find, that using rapid fire to capture images doesn’t seem to yield as great a result. Our rapid-fire underwater photos tend to be slightly blurry and pale in comparison to manually pointing and shooting a single frame with the GoPro.
When it comes to shooting great photos underwater, the sky’s the limit regarding equipment, but better material won’t always give you the results you are looking for.
Using a GoPro for underwater photography can get you amazing results if used correctly. Having used this product for the past six years, Joey and I have taken this camera on tonnes of scuba adventures.
Do you use your GoPro for photography while scuba diving? What kind of things do you do to improve your pictures?
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The tips you gave here is really awesome. This will help me a lot. Thanks for sharing this.
I have never taken underwater pictures before. The suggestions in your article have made me feel I can do it. Thank you for featuring Go Pro as a good starter and beyond choice. Can not wait to dive into the small brooks in my area in Vermont.
You made a good point that when it comes to underwater diving photography, the closer to the subject the better. I will keep that in mind when I go on vacation next year. I’ve always wanted to go on a diving trip with my best friend because we have always been fascinated by marine life. Taking lots of pictures of them would surely be fun.
You got that right, the photos will be better once you become a better diver, which I’m still in the process of becoming haha. But man, those shots in the deep, deep water are so gorgeous I’m definitely determined to get certified.