Underwater Video Tips

Advice for first-time underwater videographers
By Scott Gietler

Now that you’re ready to go dive underwater and take video, it's time for some underwater video tips. Here’s what you need to know initially:

1) Many of the techniques for still underwater photography apply for underwater video as well.


2) It’s called “Moving Pictures”, not “Moving Camera”!! Avoid ‘fire hosing’. That is moving your camera around as if you were putting out a fire. The steadier your shots, the less seasick your audience will be.


3) Take your finger off the Zoom button. The Zoom should only be used to compose your shot. Then capture the shot. Zooming in and out can be quite distracting.


4) Watch the Discovery Channel and other nature channels. Look for techniques that appeal to you.


5) Remember, “Tape is Cheap!”. Or, for the newer cameras, memory is cheap. Never miss an opportunity to capture a cool shot. Give yourself plenty of pre-roll and after-roll. Let the fish swim out of the frame before you hit pause. You’ll be surprised how many times something unexpected will happens after you hit the pause button.


6) For the most part, shooting underwater video is easier than shooting still images. The camera can run and you can wait for action to happen. All you have to do is keep it in focus and steady. The post production is way easier with still images than video. If you like to show behavior, or tell stories, there is no better way than with video.


7) Always take the three basic shots, establishing shot, medium shot and close up. Your videos should tell a story. For this you need to show the environment you subject is in.


8) Don’t forget to take shots that will bring your audience underwater and back to the surface. Jumping off of a boat, diver descending, diver on anchor line. Be creative with this.


9) Shooting underwater video with available light, you’ll want to be where it is the brightest. Use a color correcting filter whenever possible. They do work. You can see the results in your view finder.


10) White balance often, If your housing doesn’t have manual white balance. Set it on Auto. You will still need to shine it on a white surface constantly. Or, point it to the Sand or the Sun. Only point at the sun while you’re underwater of course.


11) Shooting wide angle (scenic): Zoom the camera all the way out. Lock you elbows to your side and be perfectly neutrally buoyant. Hold you breath to minimize shaking (warning, you cannot ascend even a little if holding your breath). If want to pan a scene, do it slooowly. Shoot multiple takes. Use a color correcting filter.


12) Shooting medium shots (fish pictures): Zoom to compose the shot. Get as close to the subject as you can. If possible without damaging the reef, set the camera on a solid object. Or, put your elbows in the sand to secure the camera. Hold your breath to minimize shaking if you are on the ground. Then when the camera is still, press record. Try not to follow the fish, let it swim out of the frame.


13) Shooting Closeup or Macro shots: Here you should have lights. And, hide from the sun. Your lights will never overpower the big light in the sky. The closer you get, the stiller you camera has to be. The tiniest shake can ruin the best shot.


14) Get as close as you can to your subject, with the camera Zoomed out as much as possible. The subject should ‘Fill The Frame’. The closer you are, the better your color, contrast and sharpness will be.


15) Most of the lesser priced housing do not have full access to many of the cameras features. Thus, you will have to put all the settings on Auto. Like, Focus, White Balance, and Aperture. The camera manufacturers have spent a lot of money developing these Auto features. They work quite well. But, they do have their limitations.


16) Practice in a pool. Then, if possible, on a local beach dive. You never want to learn how to use new gear on an expensive vacation.  


Thanks to Walter Marti for writing these underwater video tips. Walter has won many of the top underwater videography contests over the last few years.


Further Reading:


Underwater Photography Tips

Keldan Luna 8 video light review

Walter Marti's Underwater Videos

Underwater Video Tips
Scott Gietler
Advice for first-time underwater videographers


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