Guides & Tutorials

The Complete Guide for the Quarantined Underwater Photographer

Due to the changing circumstances and the global COVID-19 crisis, many of us are in complete lockdown, stuck in our houses, going out only to the supermarket or pharmacy once a week.

Maybe for normal people that’s not too bad, but for us divers, it’s excruciating! Like fish, if our gills stay dry for too long, we wither and die…

Wherever you are in the world, we put together a few suggestions to help you survive this crisis, without forgetting all your UW photo skills!

1. Let The Editing Begin!

Remember those thousands of photos you took during your past dive trips and barely had time to view them, let alone edit them, before life took over?

This is their time to shine! Use that free time at home to open up those dusty folders on your hard drive, review the photos again and look for gems.

I recommend using Lightroom or Adobe Bridge in combination with Camera RAW. You can easily flag photos as pick or reject, filter all the “picks” and start editing!

To learn more about post processing for underwater using Lightroom read this article.

** OFFER BY ADOBE ** Adobe are giving out two free months on the Photography plan! Click here to get it.

2. Clean Your Gear Thoroughly

If you haven’t done so before, this is a great opportunity to take out all of your underwater camera gear and give it a thorough cleaning.

Seal your housing / lights and rinse everything in fresh water, to dissolve any salt residue that might still be there from the recent trip. Make sure to activate all buttons and controls under the water several times.

Clean all the o-rings, lube them with some silicone grease (not too much!) so they don’t dry out during this dry period.

Use a microfiber cloth to clean the inside and outside of your ports and domes, as well as lenses, wet and dry. You can also use some lens cleaning solution to get rid of any greasy fingerprints.

More about proper housing maintenance here

3. Pool Owners – You’re Lucky!

For those of you who have a pool in your house – we’re jealous!!

There are endless options to continue shooting underwater if you have a pool in your backyard! Here are a few suggestions:

Take photos of your nuclear family

Whether it’s your kids, husband, wife, grandma or your dog, everyone likes to play around in the pool. Use those models to practice underwater portraits! You can get creative with lighting, try to improvise colorful backgrounds, try out different outfits or even shoot at night with strobes for a very cool effect.

Learn more about shooting underwater portraits here

Who knows, maybe by the time this all blows over, you’ll have a new job as a pro underwater portrait photographer!

Practice Macro Photography (While practicing freediving)

Grab some marine life figurines, dunk them in the pool and shoot away! If you have your own tanks and some means of compressing them, you can stay longer while practicing. For the rest of us, this is a good time to improve your breathholding skills!
Warning – any breathholding activity should always be done with a buddy. Even in a pool. Both of you should preferably have proper freediving training.

You can use this time to try out new lighting techniques, practice shooting with one or two lights, try out back lighting (one strobe behind the subject, one in front). Get a snoot light and practice on a still subject. Or a light with color filters!

The Kraken 1000FE Focus Edition is an excellent light to get, that can be mounted with both a snoot and color filters.

Test Weird Lens Combinations

If you have DSLR’s or mirrorless, you may have plenty of lenses which you don’t really use underwater except for that one macro or wide angle.

This is a good time to try those other lenses under your dome port. Even if they’re not officially compatible, perhaps some might work and produce great results. Especially prime lenses which might not be best for marine life, but could be perfect for portraits (see above).

Create an Underwater Studio

If you have a LOT of time on your hands, then you can put in some effort and construct a complete underwater studio, with old furniture or items you don’t really mind getting wet.

Stick a model in there and you’re bound to get hundreds or even thousands of likes on FB and IG. Your post might become even more viral than Coronavirus!

If you need some inspiration, check out Brett Stanley’s work.

4. Learn More About Photography

Remember that underwater photography is still photography. If you want to improve your photos, deepen your knowledge of photography in general. Read about shutter speed, ISO and aperture. Learn more about depth of field, minimum focus distance, maximum flash sync speed and other advanced terms.

My personal tip is to learn and practice studio photography using external speedlights. Many aspects of studio photography are very relevant for underwater photography as well, since basically what you’re doing underwater is creating a mini studio with your own lights.

Learn how to set up a portable studio outside at sunset and which settings to use and I guarantee your wide angle underwater photos will be much better!

5. Shoot With Your Entire Rig Assembled Above Water

Using your system out of the water is actually a great simulation for using it underwater! Of course, if it’s a heavy DSLR rig it might be a bit difficult, so you can set it up on a table or tripod.

Assemble your entire rig and practice in different lighting conditions – indoors, outdoors, night time, sunset etc. Especially if it’s a new camera or housing. This will help you get more familiar with the buttons and controls so that you can adjust it quickly underwater. You can experiment with different settings and subjects to challenge yourself and try out different camera modes to see which one you’re most comfortable with.

Keep in mind that the main difference is how far your lights reach and how strong they are. Underwater the strobes will fade much faster so you’ll need to get closer to your subjects or use higher power output on the strobes. Other than that, it’s really quite similar.

WARNING – Do NOT use your video lights above water, unless they are designed for that (such as Sola GoBe). They can easily overheat. With strobes, do not shoot consecutively on high power or they will overheat as well. Allow them time to cool down between shots.

Learn underwater photography online

6. Take Online Underwater Photo Classes

Taking the time to learn the proper foundations of underwater photography from a pro is the fastest way to improve your photos. Whether you’re just starting out, or if you’re more experienced and would like to expand your knowledge on various subjects such as macro photography, wide angle, lighting, post processing etc., there are courses available for any level.

I offer several options as well as customized lessons for your needs. We will also start offering online group workshops so that you can also socialize while taking the course (without risk of infection of course!).

More info about underwater photo classes online here

Do you have any more fun ideas for underwater photographers stuck at home? Share with us in the comments!

Stay safe and wash your hands!

Ran Mor
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