Use these tips to shoot underwater like a pro with your GoPro
Most people buy GoPro cameras specifically for shooting underwater videos while diving or snorkeling. If you’re one of them, this article will guide you on how to capture beautiful wide-angle shots in low-light underwater conditions.
As a kid growing up in New Jersey I was always fascinated by one program in particular; The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. The amazing adventures that Cousteau and his team filmed were fascinating to me. In the years that followed, I was determined to shoot underwater video that was as stunning, beautiful and wondrous as theirs.
Unfortunately, the camera technology I had access to, due to the times and my bank account, was never good enough to match what Cousteau was creating (not even close).
The colors were always washed out, the cameras were bulky and hard to use and, frankly, my skill-level wasn’t great. That all changed, however, with the release of the first GoPro camera.
That being said, there are still many things you need to know and do to get the best results with a GoPro.
In the past, ActionHub shared some useful GoPro tips for snowboarders. Now, we’ve put together a list of the 12 best GoPro underwater tips. They might not make you as good as Cousteau, but they’ll definitely up your underwater game and help you take fantastic underwater videos. Enjoy!
First, Get Your GoPro Ready
Before setting off on any underwater adventure you want to always make sure your GoPro is ready. The last thing you want to happen is to arrive at your destination or, even worse, be in the middle of filming, when your GoPro goes belly-up. Here are a few things you need to check every time you hit the open water:
- Charge your batteries. That includes the batteries for your GoPro and, if they have them, your underwater lights.
- Use an underwater dive housing. Yes, your GoPro is made to go underwater. Frankly, though, an extra layer of protection never hurts, especially with an expensive piece of equipment like a GoPro. Plus, if you go lower than 33 feet (about 10 meters) you’ll need one anyway.
- Update your GoPro’s Firmware. That way you’ll always have the latest features and debugged software.
- Add a float and a strap to make sure your GoPro doesn’t disappear into the depths.
Most of the reasons for these various tasks are obvious. For example, your battery dying halfway through your dive or your GoPro “locking up” when you try to save a video. (Both would ruin your dive and your day.) The case will protect your camera from saltwater, and updating the firmware will reduce the risk of glitches. All of them together will ensure that you get the best underwater videos with the least amount of SNAFUs. Now onto the Tips!
Tip 1: Get Low and Shoot Upwards with your GoPro
Many people shooting underwater have a bad habit of looking and shooting straight down, a shot composition position that’s boring and bland. Instead, get your body down as low as you can and shoot upward at your subject, be it a reef, a shipwreck or even another diver. The lower you go, the better the shot. You can even get right on the seafloor and shoot horizontally. The resulting videos will be much more engaging and beautiful.
Tip 2: Use a Color Filter
A funny thing happens underwater, even in the clearest aquamarine seas; colors get washed out and monochromatic. The reason why is that water filters out the color red, especially as you dive deeper. Thus, everything starts to take on a blue-ish and green-ish color. The best way to deal with this and get more color in your underwater videos is to use a red filter to diminish the effects of blue and green. A magenta filter works also, especially if you’re going deep.
Tip 3: Bring a Clamp to Stabilize Your GoPro
Shaky video is no fun to watch but, underwater, it’s difficult at best to keep your GoPro stable. The solution; bring a GoPro Jaws Flex Clamp. With the clamp, you can attach your GoPro to practically anything (although be careful to not injure any living creatures). You can stick it in the sand, attach it to a piece of dead rock or part of a shipwreck too. The change is astounding. With your GoPro stable and not moving, everything else takes on a new life and makes for a much better, visually interesting video.
Tip 4: Use Underwater Lighting
One of the biggest problems with shooting underwater is that, oftentimes, there’s not enough light to bring out the true colors down there. There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to lighting while using your GoPro, and they will all make your videos more colorful and alive. We also recommend using lights when using any filter. In combination, the results will be impressive.
Tip 5: Film Yourself to Add a ‘Human Element’
With a GoPro clamp, you can also take a video of yourself much more easily. This adds a human element to your videos that make them more enjoyable to watch. Here’s the thing; when people watch your videos, they want to feel as if they are there. Seeing you in the video allows them to do that in their mind’s eye. In effect, you become their avatar, which can make your videos much more compelling. Attaching your GoPro somewhere and swimming towards it, over it and past it will add that human element people love, especially if you’ve given yourself a beautiful, natural backdrop.
Tip 6: Clean Your GoPro’s Lens and Your Housing Unit Before Every Dive
There’s nothing worse than getting back on dry land, uploading your videos to your computer, and realizing that a smudge or some other gunk is ruining all your videos. That’s why, before every dive, you should clean your lens and your housing. Bring a small towel that’s dedicated just for cleaning. A small can of compressed air to blow away any dust or small debris isn’t a bad idea either.
Tip 7: Keep the Sun at Your Back
If you’re snorkeling close to the surface and shooting with your GoPro, keeping the sun at your back will help bring out all the beautiful colors of everything you shoot. Also, holding your GoPro off to the side will help keep your body from casting any shadows on your subject.
Tip 8: Get Some ‘B-Roll’ Footage to Make Your GoPro Video More Interesting
Whether you’re creating a video to show friends and family or share on your YouTube channel, you’ll need some interesting B-Roll shots. Think of B-roll like the bread you get at a nice restaurant. It’s not your main meal, but it’s still enjoyable. So, for example, arriving at the beach, greeting the dive shop owner, or the sun and clouds over the ocean. You jumping in to start your dive is good too, and are all great B-roll shots. Anything that will add depth and dimension to your video and help you tell your story makes for great B-roll footage.
Tip 9: Make Sure Your Housing is 100% Dry
It’s amazing how even a single drop of water can fog up your GoPro’s housing. To prevent that, make sure it’s 100 percent dry before you put your GoPro inside. Also, let your GoPro and housing warm up to the outside temperature if they’ve been sitting in an air-conditioned area. If not, the condensation can also fog things up.
Tip 10: Stick with GoPro’s Default Camera Settings
If you’re a beginner at shooting underwater videos (hey, we all were at one point, so no worries) we recommend sticking with GoPro’s default settings. They are as follows:
- 1080 HD Resolution
- 60 fps (frames per second)
- WIDE field of view
- ISO 400
- Sharpness- HIGH
- Auto White Balance
Yes, you can go for 4K resolution but you’ll need a powerful computer with a just-as-powerful graphics card to edit your resulting video. The 1080 res, frankly, is just fine for sharing on social media and will be a lot less hassle to edit. We also recommend the Hypersmooth image stabilization setting when shooting underwater since there will be a lot of movement. Lastly, turn the Screensaver and Auto-Off settings to Never.
Tip 11: Use Certified SD cards.
GoPro has a list of certified SD cards that they recommend to use along with their cameras. You’d better stick with the suggested memory cards and avoid using some cheap “no name” cards, as later they may fail to handle high data output produced by your GoPro.
Still, there are cases when the recording is interrupted due to some glitch or a lock up of the GoPro camera. As a result, your recorded video files may be corrupted. If this is the case and you can’t open the files with a video player – don’t panic as of yet. There are video recovery services like Restore.Media, which can help you repair GoPro videos in most cases. They can be a lifesaver if things go wrong and help you get back your GoPro footage.
Tip 12: Carry Extra Batteries
While this won’t help you take better underwater videos, it will help you have a better day if the battery in your GoPro decides to die. Even better, before every dive, swap out your GoPro’s battery for a freshly charged one to make sure it doesn’t die while you’re underwater.
Now, Go Out There and Get Your Cousteau On!
We hope you enjoyed all of these tips and that they’ll help you get excellent, colorful and mind-blowing underwater videos. Planning is important so that you’re ready for whatever the day, the sun and the ocean might bring. And hey, be sure to let your imagination, creativity, and artistic ability go wild. The results will surprise you, and with your GoPro in your hand, you may just capture something amazing!