Challenge - Underwater
One of the most challenging forms of photography for a model or photographer is underwater photography. There are many Youtube and other tutorials available, but unless one actually experiences this genre it can be difficult to describe. This post is not necessarily a in-depth step by step guide, since you will rarely if ever find a tutorial that will be a one size fits all, but rather some high points to consider should you work on a similar concept.
Where will you shoot?
- Outdoor pools can be nice because you know exactly what you dealing with such as the depth of the water and what is actually in the water. Unless one is trying to shoot in a public pool (not recommended), it is not too likely that someone will interrupt. If it decides to start to rain, cover is often nearby. On the other hand, some pools may not be deep enough for certain shoots. Chlorine can be very irritating to the eyes, and you may be limited to props due to the pools filtration system.
- Beach underwater shots can offer a number of natural and scenic backdrops. However the water may be murky, tides and waves may sweep people off their feet, other beach goers may pop into shots, and one never knows when a jelly fish may stop by for a swim.
- Dives in deeper water can eliminate some of the problems one may find at a popular beach. Scenic backdrops may be available. One really needs to be an accomplished swimmer or scuba certified for this to work out well.
- Hand held point and shoots such as the GoPro models certainly have their place especially in dive photography. Many GoPro cameras have mounts to a helmet that can leave your hands free. Handholding, aiming, and operating the controls though can be a major challenge underwater.
- Waterproof bags such as DiCAPac can be useful for pool shoot where one may be shooting at a shallow depth. One has to very careful how the camera is placed in the bag to avoid damage to the camera. Controls of course can remain difficult to manage within the bag.
- Dedicated water proof housings are often the best bet if one is going to be shooting on a regular basis. Controls are often larger and easier to mange and the housings are often designed to be used with a certain type of camera. These housings are expensive though and must be inspected regularly for leaks.
- Wide angle lenses are typically ideal for this concept. Burst mode on the camera can capture images quickly. It can be difficult to focus underwater, especially if the water is not crystal clear a fast lens is ideal for this project.
- Sadly, there are no perfect setting for this style of photography. It will depend on lighting at the surface, and lower depths, clarity of the water, subject to camera distance just to mention a few things. As a very general rule, try to keep a fast shutter speed (at least 1/160 sec) with a DOF of at least f-stop of 4- 5.6. An ISO of 400 -800 should normally not affect the quality of images but one may need to go higher.
Who is Photographing, Who is modeling?
- Ideally, both parties should be adequate swimmers even in relatively shallow water.
- A model/photographer who can exhale when she/he submerges for 30 seconds to a minute is ideal to allow bubbles to dissipate, to pose, and to focus on the subject.
- Buoyancy can be a problem, especially for the photographer. A small weight belt (5-10 lbs may help). Yes, one can go to many stores and pick up a exercise weight and belt for a few dollars.
- Gowns and fabric can be dramatic, but be careful that the model does not get tangled and can not reach the surface.
- Try to encourage dramatic open or extended length poses. This is even more important if your water is not crystal clear.
- Unless you have the luxury of photographing in a warm tropical paradise, the water is likely to be colder then ambient air.
- If a model opens her eyes underwater, they will likely get red or irritated. Eye drops may help if tolerated by the model.
Post Processing (Photoshop is your friend)
- Set your camera to daylight, and consider using an underwater grey card. Even so, you will need to color correct and possibly sharpen your images.
- Unless you are shooting in crystal clear water on a sunny partially cloudy day, the models skin will look anything from ghostly white to cyanotic blue. You will want to select your model from the rest of the scene and adjust skin color using a hue and saturation layer, color balance, or other toning control. Using the eyedropper tool may help but will adjust the entire image color.
- Sharpen the image with contrast, texture, clarity controls for your model. If you apply global changes and you have particulates or murky water, this could worsen the image.
- Don't forget option like your color lookup tables. Experiment with different blues and even darker hues as adjustment layers. You can alter the opacity of an effect if it is too extreme. Depending upon the effect, you may need to re-select your model to restore normal skin tones.
Underwater is not easy and certainly is one of the most challenging styles of photography to create with. It can be beautiful though!