Even though a lot of students have headed back to school, the weather is still warm enough to take a dip in the local lake or pool. If you want to capture some fun underwater images, all you need is access to a watery background (such as a pool, a lake the ocean or even a bathtub), people or animals willing to get wet and an underwater photography camera set-up. If your thinking “I can’t afford an underwater photography setup”, you can actually use a GoPro (or similar action camera) with an underwater casing, an underwater digital or disposable camera or a special casing for your cell phone! Scuba gear is not required because all you need to do is hold your breath while underwater!
Lighting is the key to all types of photography and the main benefit of pool photography is that you have ultimate control over it in your underwater studio. Lighting options will depend upon whether you are shooting outside in the daylight, in an indoor pool or at night. Just as in the ocean, ambient light in the pool can create dramatic images and it looks the most natural. You may still want a little fill light from your camera’s flash, but try to use the ambient light and experiment with shooting at different times of day and positions of the sun.
When shooting in the pool at night, it is helpful to have remote flash strobes as an extra light source. These strobes can be mounted on a tripod in the pool or secured directly above the water by placing a weight on top of the strobe arm placed on the side of the pool. Experiment with strobes at different distances above the water and in the water placed behind the model for back-lighting or off to the side for dramatic shadows. For indoor pools, you can use remote flashes to simulate sunlight because the fluorescent lighting in many buildings is inadequate and undesirable.
A key factor of good images is having a subject that looks natural underwater; nothing looks worse than a crying kid with their eyes squeezed shut, puffy cheeks and a runny nose. Luckily, there are ways to work with children of all ages to create better images. First, they must be comfortable in the water. Ideally, children will have taken swim classes or for little ones (as young as 6 months old) classes that practice submersion techniques to prevent drowning. Safety has to be the highest priority and you always need another person in the water with you who will be responsible for the child. Talk to the child before you go underwater to take pictures and instruct them to keep their eyes open, where to look, smile, don’t puff their cheeks out and demonstrate any simple poses you want them to do. Then with a little luck, you will get some good images.
When you have a child that is comfortable underwater, it is time to experiment with different props and creative lighting. The best props for kids are typically items they like use, like their favorite water toy. The more fun they are having in the water, the longer they will allow you to photograph them and the more lively the images will be.
Getting Creative with Models
An underwater model can be anyone that wants to get in front of the camera in the pool. This may be a friend, a relative, an aspiring model or a seasoned professional. Once again, they have to be comfortable underwater. Unlike young children, older models are better at taking direction and you can work with them on poses. Experiment with poses close to the surface so you can add the artistic element of reflections that make many pool images look so spectacular. Be creative with colorful, flowing outfits and eye-catching accessories. Models also look more dramatic when they wear waterproof make-up.
Don’t Forget Lassie
Underwater photography of dogs has recently hit the spotlight. Dogs are a lot of fun to photograph but can be a little unpredictable and they may take a bite at your camera. Some of the best shots of dogs are when they are jumping in the water, sticking their head in the water after a toy or swimming. Like kids and models, you will need to find a dog that is comfortable going under water or at least swimming in the pool. When shooting dogs, you will do more “shooting from the hip” where you are not looking through the viewfinder, but rather following the dog with your camera extended out. Practicing this technique with dogs and even kids will definitely come in handy in the ocean when that sea turtle is quickly approaching and changes direction at the last minute.