A Guide to Shooting Underwater on a Budget | cavaphotography

Hey everyone and welcome back! I am super excited to write this blog post because my underwater shoot is one of the most exciting shoots I have done. Before I start let me just put this out there; you don't need to be a photographer to read this post! Getting good underwater photos - whether it be on holiday or for a photographic project - is a goal I think a lot of people have without realising it, especially when travelling.

Nowadays it is easier to achieve because most phones can be submerged into water (until a certain depth) and even if your phone can't then you can buy cheap plastic cases. Now remember... this is a budget guide to underwater shooting so if you are looking to strictly be an underwater photographer then this may not be the blog for you, because you should want to invest in underwater housing for a DSLR camera which is a LOT of money.

However, because I am a fine art photographer and have only done one underwater shoot - I did not spend a lot of money on the necessities. Maybe in the future it is something I will look into and if I lived in an exotic country on the beach then I probably would!

So lets dive in (excuse the pun)!

The cheapest option I have already mentioned is to use your phone, however, it doesn't guarantee a good result, a few years ago I bought a cheap plastic case for my camera and tried it out at the beach, but the only thing you can focus on is the case as cheap ones don't sit flush to your camera/phone. So when I decided to do an underwater shoot I thought; what am I going to use to take the photographs on a professional level? I had seen a video on photographer @jovanarikalo Instagram of how she conducted her underwater shoot and I debated using this method. To buy a small rectangular fish tank, push that into the water slightly and then lean over it with your camera inside. But it was too risky - what if water splashed over the edges of the fish tank? What if it wouldn't focus through the glass? Plus fish tanks are dearer than you think and if it didn't work that would be a waste of money.

I ended up researching GoPro's and decided to purchase one, the newest release, Hero8 Black, was on offer but it didn't come out until after my shoot deadline. I preordered it because it was good value for money and I was sure I would do more underwater shoots and it would be good for filming too, but I still needed one for my shoot. Luckily my university equipment store have a couple so I took one out for the shoot so that's what I used. It was quite an old model so it wasn't as good quality as my new one is but the images turned out so well. I would highly recommend using a GoPro to shoot underwater for a number of reasons:

  1. You don't have to focus! Just point and shoot.

  2. Easy to switch between video and photo modes.

  3. Cheap!

So the next thing that you need to shoot underwater is the water itself! This is something that came quite easy for me and I was very lucky. My only option was my local swimming pool owned by BETTER Leisure Centre - due to it being such a big business (you probably have a BETTER centre near you!) I didn't think I was going to be allowed to use a section of the pool to shoot in. But I thought it was worth a try so I sent an email, which led to a meeting and permission to shoot in the hydrotherapy pool. This was perfect because it was in its own room so we would have complete privacy, plus it was warm which was an added bonus! The only requirement was that we shot early before the pool was needed - 7am to be exact! And that we paid for a lifeguard to be present for safety reasons which was only £15 an hour. We only took an hour so the use of the pool was £15!

Of course this option of a swimming pool is specific to photographers that are conducting a professional shoot. Finding water to shoot in is quite easy if you don't need a model - you could use your bath, maybe add some bath bombs for an artistic effect, your sink, the beach and of course when you are on holiday. I have yet to go abroad with my GoPro but when I do I will be using it at the beach during sunset!

My last tip is lighting, ideally you should shoot outside or somewhere with windows as its pretty dark underwater. I took a strong heavy-duty flash light and my mum (aka my assistant!) held it over the water for me, but it didn't make too much difference, I definitely would have been able to get a stronger image with more clarity if there was more light in the pool.

I hope this answers how to overcome the two main obstacles of underwater shooting on a budget. If you guys use any of my tips then be sure to tag me in them on instagram @cavaphotography. Also check out my instagram for behind the scenes of the shoot and more of the final images!

I will be back next Sunday with a brand new post! Have a good week guys!

Lots of love, Chlo x

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