A couple of months ago I posted some of my underwater turtle photos on my Facebook page and was flooded with messages asking about my camera equipment. When I responded with the name of the camera and the price, everyone was shocked.
It got me thinking about the price of underwater camera gear and how you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot in order to capture some beautiful shots. I wanted to put together a post sharing some of the underwater photography tips I have found useful as an amateur. To show that you don’t need expensive gadgets, or lots of experience, to get some great underwater photographs as a beginner.
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A few years ago – the only way to capture beautiful underwater photography was with expensive cameras and specially-made underwater housings for those cameras. Each housing was specifically designed for that camera so that all the buttons and functions could work, which put them at a premium. One leaky o-ring and your precious photography equipment was at risk.
In 2009 I invested a few hundred dollars (around $350) in one of the first Olympus tough underwater cameras. The Olympus Stylus Tough 6000. Waterproof and shockproof, I loved it. But sadly without care and attention after underwater use it was susceptible to corrosion and mine died after a day when it was used underwater too many times in quick succession (which you were apparently not supposed to do). I’m sure that the latest models are tougher, but they still come with a starting price of $399.
Fast forward a few years and we are well and truly in the age of the GoPro. Small, rugged and complete with it’s own little underwater case – it revolutionized simple underwater photography and videography, not to mention any kind of action photography. But this all still came at a price. A GoPro these days will cost you $399 before memory card and accessories. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that they are worth every cent. Some of the amateur video footage I see shot with GoPros rival professional videography.
But what happens if you’re just not ready to part with that kind of cash just yet…
Last year I decided to take a bit of a gamble on a lesser known action camera brand called Apeman. And, I’m so glad I did. Built almost identically to the GoPro, but without the clever marketing and a few of the fancy gadgets, the Apeman camera gives me great underwater photos for a fraction of the price. Like the GoPro these action cameras are point and click.
For me, it was a great way to see whether or not I would pursue underwater photography, without outlaying lots of money straight away. Let’s be very clear, I’m a complete beginner and I’m just looking to capture some fun underwater pictures. If you’re considering an underwater camera but you’re daunted by the cost, the Apeman is an ideal option. And, if it sits in a drawer for 11 months of the year, waiting to go on holiday with you – you won’t feel like you’re not getting enough use out of an expensive piece.
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But, don’t just take my word for it on the photo quality – all of the photos in this post were shot on my $60 Apeman action camera.
Get close to your subject –
Water reduces colour, sharpness and contrast.
Don’t crowd your subject –
Contrary to tip number one, please don’t crowd or harass your subject. This is particularly true for turtles, if they feel threatened they may not go up to the surface to breathe and can drown. Never touch them, never swim over the top of them. Use zoom if you need to – the close-up turtle shots in this post are zoomed in.
Get comfortable in the water –
You’re going to want to make sure that you’re comfortable diving down and holding your breath. The more comfortable you are in the water the better your shots will be as you’ll spend less time focusing on what you’re doing and more on framing and capturing your subject.
Where possible, try to shoot at an upwards angle.
Some of it is luck –
With all the will in the world, some of my underwater shots are just lucky and there were many other shots that didn’t turn out as well. But for me, it’s just fun trying. Have fun with it – I’m hoping that practice makes perfect!
The GoPro alternative market is already filled with different options all offering a very similar camera. Some of my other favourites include:
The AKASO EK7000 Pro
Excellent ratings on Amazon, like the Apeman it comes with a wireless remote control and a waterproof hard-shell case. Unlike the Apeman, it has a touchscreen and adjustable view angle and a dive mode meaning that it filters the red light underwater. For a similar price this camera has a good few extra features.
The AKASO V50
The slightly upgraded sibling to the EK7000 Pro, it demonstrates all of the same features but with an impressive 20MP camera.
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Lastly, to get my underwater photographs looking their best, I do a small amount of editing. Shooting underwater means that you lose the red light at depth, you can fix this by using a red light filter on your camera, or you can add it in post-production. The easiest way that I have found to restore the red in my photography is using the Dive+ app.
Formulated for divers, the Dive+ app has a host of different features, but the one I’m interested in is the underwater photo colour correction and underwater video colour correction (Yes, it does video too!) With just the touch of a button you can really bring your underwater photography to life.
I’ve included some before and after examples below.
What do you think? Are you an underwater photography fan? Are you team Go-pro or would you consider one of the alternatives? Let me know in the comments below!