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Underwater Photography in Raleigh

Underwater Photography in Raleigh

Most of us love being in the pool on those smoking' hot Carolina summer days.  It's fun, cool and a great way to absolutely wear out your kids!

Creating underwater images requires a unique set of gear and an understanding of lighting principles to get the best results.


A Slicker for Your Camera

Underwater photography doesn't require a special camera or lens, although one with excellent AF capabilities and a wider angle is certainly recommended.

It does, however, require that you properly protect that camera unless your intention is to drown and effectively kill it.

So, you'll need an underwater housing for your camera.

With an increased popularity in underwater imagery, the market for housings has developed some new competition for your dollars.

The first option is a waterproof camera bag.  Basically, it's a large ziplock bag that will roll down and buckle in some fashion, basically sealing out the water.  While this type of covering will be acceptable for some, it's a huge risk of improperly sealing and not a chance I would take with my rig.

The next option the market is a thick latex wrap that you fit over your camera and have some sealed openings for rear lcds and camera lenses.  This a pretty reasonable setup for beginning users, but it lacks something that you will eventually need - the ability to control flash off-camera. Because the latex wrap fits quite snuggly around the camera, there is no opening and no way to trigger a flash from the hot shoe.  Additionally, it's unlikely that you could trigger the flash through the water column as water greatly reduces signal transmission due to water's density.

The last option, and most expensive for good reason, is a hard outer shell.  With these shells, you will need one piece for the body (likely camera specific and not one-size-fits-most) and then a piece for your specific lens (a little more flexibility here).  The lens cover screws on to the front of the body cover and then the clear back cover will clip onto the body.

With these units, the risk of leakage is quite small and testing before you actually use it underwater is highly recommended to ensure that all connections are secure and tight, preventing water from entering the camera.

As with anything, there's a couple downsides you'll have to weigh.

First is expense.  My Aquatech housing runs about $1500 before any of the extras I added.

Second is weight.  Because these are dividable casings, they are not cheaply made and the build quality is substantial.  Keep in mind that you'll have to carry this underwater, something that seems easier than it is.


Understanding or Creating the Light

Now that your camera is safe, it's time to get in the water.  But first make sure you think through your settings.  Underwater images are action based, meaning you'll likely be wanting to stop movement crisply.

This requires high shutter speeds.  Apertures will be close to wide open and ISO will be adjusted based on the exact pool you are in, whether indoor or outdoor, whether flash will be used and a couple other factors.

Often times, you'll realize that the lighting in the pool is less than optimal and that's where flash comes into play.  In any of my underwater photographs, there is always flash coming into the image to light the subject.

Depending on the specific look I want, it could be directly overhead, forward and angled down or even acting as a backlight.  Regardless of placement, it is supplementing the light that is already there.

In my best results, the light is almost always boomed over the pool with a slight angle towards the swimmer.  This allows me to light the face, rather than mistiming the stroke and lighting the water behind them.


Finding the Timing

Photographing swimmers is all about timing.  It's all about capturing the peak of the action.

Accomplishing this is one part understanding the stroke and one part understanding the speed.  Both of these elements can be quickly gauged by watching a couple practice laps or short swims, but above water and below.

Once you understand the swimmer's style and speed, you can enter the water knowing when the peak is likely to occur and then adjust your timing from there.  

It's not likely that this is a one shot deal.  In fact, it's probably not a two shot deal.  Therefore, it's important to understand when to have them push hard and when to have them swim more casually.  Pushing too hard early on can lead to burn out before you're done with creating the images you need.


Underwater photography, for me, is a absolute blast and something I really enjoy!  I'd love to work with you on your swimming images, so contact me to schedule a time to talk and we'll hit the pool and have a blast!



9225 Ashton Glen Drive, Zebulon, NC 27597 - (252) 341-0974 - Call Today