Underwater Tips & Tricks Part I
Gear and Getting Started
I get asked often about my approach to underwater photography so I've decided to share some tips and tricks in a series of blog posts! I hope you will find this information useful but know that there is no ONE WAY to shoot.... ANYTHING. My best advice is to do your research and just get out there and experiment. Find inspiration within yourself and allow for original creative output.
In this blog post I want to talk about gear and setup. If you think underwater photography or photography gear in general is too expensive to get into, I beg you to read on. First and foremost I want to stress that camera gear only goes so far. Knowing how to use your camera and executing creative vision is 99% of this gig. You might be surprised that I use a 10 year old Canon XT and an 18-55mm kit lens for all of my underwater photography. It is the lowest of the low in terms of DSLR equipment but if you know how to use it, you can produce crisp, clear, beautiful pictures with just that! When my friends ask me for a camera recommendation, I definitely tell them to get a base model for their first camera and shoot only in manual mode. Your camera is dumb dumb dumb. It doesn't know what you are trying to capture especially in an underwater environment.
I could write a novel on DSLR underwater housing. I personally use the Dicapac Waterproof Case, a $60 plastic bag! My complaints about the Dicapac are that it floats even with all the air sucked out and it's hard to keep the lens in just the right place within the lens ring. It takes a whole bunch of practice and maneuvering but when held just right, it works great! I also tied a 2 lb weight to the bottom of the bag to help me take it deeper underwater. My friends on G+ have given the Ewa Marine, which sells for about $400, similar reviews. You can fit a strobe in the Ewa Marine but who wants to shoot with an on camera flash!? Try using your built in flash first for a similar effect or if you don't have a built in flash, add strobes to the deck and light from above! I generally shoot underwater in full sun so I can capture the reflection on the water surface from below. Overcast or evening light will give you less water ripple effects on skin. You could of course definitely splurge and go full pro housing for about $1500-3000!
I rented the highest level underwater point & shoot from a friend when I first got started. The Canon Powershot D10 is lightweight and easy to use. It's also completely automatic (boo). I had to get this close to the camera to produce a semi clear image. You can see that it's pretty grainy.
Using a DSLR instead of a point & shoot underwater gives you so much more ability. The images are clear and you can shoot in RAW which is crazy important underwater. The two images below demonstrate color balance underwater. Everything is very blue. Since it is a RAW file, I was able change the color temperature in Lightroom easily.
The scene is also fun to play with. In this first picture, I shot Hannah in my pool and you can see the visible tile line. In the next photos, I experimented with a black backdrop and loved the outcome! My secret to an underwater backdrop is felt! I get 5-6 yards of black felt, submerge it underwater, and weigh it down with brick pavers both on the pool floor and deck. Stretch it fairly tight so you won't see the wrinkles from water movement.
One last tip for this post... get yourself some snorkel gear. You don't want to hold your breath while waiting for the perfect shot. I generally setup my shot, take a test shot, set myself up underwater and then make a noise through my snorkel to let my model know that I'm ready.
That's it for today's tips! I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to connecting with you here or on my facebook page in the future!! Feel free to ask questions in the comment area! :D
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