If you like to get yourself and your GoPro wet you’ve arrived at the right destination.
No, I’m not holding a pool party, but I will give you the best tips for making the most out of your underwater GoPro shots.
For most people, filming underwater is the main reason for buying a GoPro. So why not make the most out of it?
I remember when I took my first underwater shoot with a GoPro. Man, I was so disappointed by the way it looked.
I initially thought that there’s something wrong with my camera, or it’s a fake one. The video looked so dull and washy. It was nothing like I expected.
You see these amazing GoPro underwater shots on YouTube, so you have really high expectations from your own shots.
But when you get back home and are all excited to see the video….you realize than simply hitting the shutter button doesn’t work. Not that a GoPro has that many buttons anyway.
Alright, enough with the chatter, let’s get to the tips.
The preparation for a successful underwater shoot actually starts before you actually dive in. Getting a few things in check will make your life so much easier underwater.
#1 Clean your GoPro housing and lenses
First and foremost you want to make sure your lenses are housing are super clean.
So, remove any dirt might me left from last week’s mountain biking race before packing for your diving adventure. There’s nothing worse than having dirt stuck between your housing and the lenses while you are 50m below the surface.
I like to clean everything even if there are no visible droplets or there’s no visible dirt just to make extra sure. It doesn’t hurt to take a photo of white/black background to check if everything is super clean afterward. Yeah, I know, I’m a bit OCD about it.
#2 Make sure the housing doesn’t leak
Once you’re done cleaning it’s time to double check the housing and make sure it’s not talking in any water.
An easy way to do this is by visually inspecting the white rubber seal around the waterproof door of the housing. Make sure it in perfect condition and it’s clean otherwise, it can cause leaking.
You can test if your housing is leaking or not my taking out the camera, closing the waterproof door and putting in underwater. Give it a good shake and then check for any water drops inside the housing.
The GoPro Hero 5 and the Hero 6 are both waterproof, up to 10 feet without using any casing, so one or two drops of water will probably not cause any damage. But why risk it?
#3 What settings to use
When you’re underwater or in the water you don’t really have the time or mood to play around with the settings. So make sure to set the resolution, frame rate or shooting mode beforehand.
For underwater video using 1080p at 60 fps on a GoPro Hero 5 will give you the best results.
If you are using the newer GoPro Hero 6 you can crank up the resolution and frame rate to either 2.7k at 120 fps or even 4k at 60 fps. Apparently, using a higher resolution will make the footage less shaky.
On top of that, you can always go from a higher to a lower resolution in post-production. Or you can take the 4k footage and zoom in until you get to 1080p. That one easy way to zoom in without losing the quality.
When it comes to frame rate, if the light is not very good, you might want to settle with a lower shutter speed such as 30 fps or 60 fps.
This way the image will be brighter and less noisy. Yeah, you won’t be able to edit the videos into that buttery smooth slow motion, but you will get a better quality video.
For photographs you can use the Time Lapse feature, setting the highest resolution and take 1 shot every half a second.
#4 No fog, please
Getting fog or moisture on your GoPro lenses will totally ruin your shoots. This is a common issue when you are using your GoPro in the water, but you can fix it pretty easy.
One way is to simply let your camera sit for a bit before you start filming. That way it will get closer to the temperature of the environment you are filming in and there will be less or no fog on the lenses.
Another solution which works really good is to place some anti-fog inserts inside the housing. You can make these yourself using some paper towel.
Or, if you are not so much of a DIY guy or gal you can buy them in packs of 20 for around 5 bucks. You can also reuse them, so that’s a pretty good deal.
#5 Use a red filter
You know how everything looks either blue or green underwater, right? That’s mainly because there’s very little no red color underwater.
For this reason, underwater shoots will look very blue or green and will look washy. When the camera can’t see any red color it will have a hard time adjusting its internal/auto settings and it will make everything look pretty bad.
Using a red filter will compensate that everything will look so much better and natural. Red filters work great for blue waters. There’s also a magenta filter which works really well for waters that are green.
These filters will make a huge difference in the quality of the shoots so I can’t stress enough how important they are for underwater photography or videography.
The newer GoPro Hero 6 performs so much better than the previous version – the Hero 5 – even without any filters, but when you add the right filter, that when your shots will really start to come to life and really pop.
You can get a pack which contains both colors – red and magenta – as well as different intensities to used for shallow or deeper waters.
Speaking of deep waters…
#6 How deep can I go
The GoPro is waterproof up to the depth that the casing is rated for, so that’s how deep you can go without risking any damage to the camera.
For the GoPro Hero 4, the standard housing can go up to 40 meters.
The GoPro Hero 5 and the newer GoPro Hero 6 hare the same Supersuit casing which can go up to 60 meters.
If you are into scuba diving though, that’s probably not going to be enough. So you will have to use a housing which is rated for deeper waters. Super Housing is a great pick for scuba diving.
If you go deeper than 10 feet though (which is not that deep) you will need to use additional lights. There will be less sunlight reaching that deep, so your shoots will look grainy.
#7 LED lights
Speaking of dark and grainy looking shots, one easy fix to that, just as above water, is to add more light.
You can do that by using external LED lights. These are fairly cheap to buy and compact so you can handle them pretty easily.
The downside is that they will only work if your subject is really close, like 1-2 feet away. If you do use them, make sure to take off the red filter otherwise, the shoots will look too reddish.
In order to mount any lights on your GoPro, you will need to buy handles for your casing. The lights will then be attached to these handles.
#8 Have the Sun behind you
If you want to get the absolute best results, always shot by turning your back to the sun.
This way the light will be on your subject, not coming directly into your lenses.
Personally, I’ve never taken any good shots when shooting into the sun, but if you think you can make something good out of it, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
#9 Use a dome
GoPro is popular for those amazing over-under shoots – halfway underwater and halfway above the water.
If you tried to took those before you might have noticed that they look terrible when compared to what you might see other GoPro users posting. The reason for that is the water line which sits too close to the lenses and makes the over and under scenes look so disproportionate.
The only way of taking amazing over-under shoots with your GoPro is to put in under a dome. This accessory will push the water away from the lenses which will help you capture amazing photos or videos.
#10 Buy a floaty accessory
I think it goes without saying that unless you want your precious GoPro to die on the bottom of the ocean and become fish food, you need to get yourself something to keep in floating in case you drop it.
Even so, there are good changes that you’ll never find it again. So, don’t drop it underwater. Make sure your floaty has a good wrist strap and that it… floats.
Buying a selfie stick which is waterproof is also a good idea.
Plan your shoots a little bit and use the same principles that you would use above the water.
Have a foreground and a background. Don’t shoot just the shipwreck for example. Make the shipwreck the main thing in the picture by capturing the depth of the water in the background.
This will give the viewer a sense of the space and size of the scene. GoPro cameras are so small that you can try different perspectives and get really creative with it. Put your GoPro in unusual places and experiment with different type of shots.
#12 Camera movement
If you are filming make sure you keep the camera as steady as you can and you are making slow and smooth movements.
There’s nothing worse than watching a shaky video. It looks amateurish and it can create nausea. It doesn’t have to be perfectly still, just enough so you can use some stabilization when you edit the video to make it look better.
#13 Double handled tray for stability
A great tool for underwater shoots is the double handled tray.
First and foremost you can swim and hold it with no problem. And secondly, you are using both hands to hold it which makes the footage so much more stable.
You can also try to keep your elbows slightly bent, instead of having them straight. It will add a plus for stability.
Wash the salt off the housing
Lastly but not least, when you’re back from your underwater adventure please take the time to thoroughly wash your GoPro housing, if you’ve been in salt water.
Salt will have a corrosive effect on it and it’s a pity to have it ruined when you can easily rinse it with fresh water and avoid all that.
Preparation is very important when it comes to shooting underwater with a GoPro.
Make sure your casing is working properly, double check your gear and equip your self with the right GoPro accessories for shooting underwater.
Definitely, don’t forget about the filters and once you start shooting try to move the camera as smoothly as you can, get close enough to your subject.
Pay attention to lighting as well, this can be a major issue underwater and always try to have a foreground and a background in your shots. This will give the viewer a sense of the space and dimensions of everything.