Scuba diving opens up a mesmerizing world that feels foreign and yet familiar at the same time. Naturally, we want to share this experience with friends as soon as we get out of the water. It’s a part of life. But underwater it’s much more complicated, and safety becomes a primary concern.
There are a number of factors to consider before starting underwater photography and video, each of which will not just keep you — and your dive buddy, and the reef — safe, but help you create better imagery.
Log Your Hours
Spending time diving without a camera helps make key skills second nature. For example, which arm do you use to release air from your BC? Can you grab your SPG in one swift movement without fiddling around? Can you estimate remaining air before checking? Practicing these skills is essential so that you stay safe when you have a camera in your hands and the excitement meter pushes toward 11.
Master Fundamental Techniques
Excellent buoyancy, body position, and avoiding hand use are also key skills. The last thing you want is to set up for a photo then crash into delicate corals, ruining decades of fragile growth.
Precise control of your body position also will help you create better photos and video. This is because great photos are carefully thought out and composed, which takes time hovering in one position. Video is even more challenging because you need to be completely stable to record steady footage.
Try diving in a horizontal position with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Frog kick to slowly move forward, pivot, and even move backward. Not only will you have great control of your positioning for the shot, but you will not kick up a backscatter-inducing sand cloud. Your buddies will thank you, and experienced divers will be more open to showing you cool critters that are hidden to the untrained eye.
Smaller cameras deliver excellent image quality at an affordable price. If you dive frequently and really want to make underwater photography and video a hobby, start with a modest camera, then invest in your lighting and arm-clamp system. Your wallet will thank you, and when you do start pushing the camera’s limits and want to upgrade, your lighting will carry over to the new system.
Like most hobbies, you will learn the most by shooting as frequently as possible. Look for a dive resort or liveaboard with a resident photo pro or join a professional photo workshop to quickly increase your skills in a seven- to 10-day period.
Be sure to write down your favorite settings and techniques at the end of your vacation. Read over these and practice before your next trip so that you don’t spend valuable dives relearning settings.
Improving your videos and photography can be a lifelong pursuit, as long as you stay safe and enjoy the underwater world on each dive.