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By Margo Cavis, Optical Ocean Sales

Have you ever been on a dive where you see some big animals – but you just can’t get close enough to capture a really good photo? This is the perfect chance to try out video. Some scenes that don’t make good still photos can actually make great video – like a group of dolphins off in the distance. Or, would you like to show behaviors, or tell a story? Do you want to show your non-diving friends and family how cool it really is? How about showing the world your story – online?

Video options have come a long way! Chances are, you might already have a camera that is capable of shooting video – so where does your camera fit in? Or maybe it’s time to upgrade and you’d like a camera that can shoot both photos and video?

Here are some basic camera formats and new popular models:

  1. Basic, super compact cameras – GoPro Hero 3+ and 4 and Sony ActionCam
  2. Compact cameras – Sony RX100 III, Canon G16 & Olympus TG-3
  3. Mirrorless cameras – Olympus E-M1, Sony A7S or A6000, Panasonic LUMIX GH4
  4. DSLR cameras (Crop frame) –  Nikon D7100 or Canon 7D Mark II – ALSO – (Full frame) Canon 70D, Nikon D750, Canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D810
  5. Consumer Camcorders (Handy Cam) – Canon Vixia HF G30 & Sony FDR AX100 with 4K video
  6. Professional Digital Video – RED Epic Series, Sony CineAlta, Canon EOS C500- The sky is the limit!

So, if you have already been doing underwater photography, and want to venture into underwater video, or maybe you are diving straight into video… either way, here are some things to consider.

Practical Tips – the differences between Underwater Photography & Underwater Videography

Video Tunnel Vision

One of the biggest differences between taking still photos and video is the awareness that you have to have while shooting. While shooting video you have what I call tunnel vision. You have to keep your eyes focused on your view screen for much longer periods of time – while also being aware of your environment – using your peripheral vision. This is especially important when shooting video as you are moving or swimming.

Best Buddy

When shooting video I find it much easier to focus on what I am doing – if I have a dive buddy that I can rely on to keep an eye out for where I am – instead of the other way around. Because, with video, longer periods of time are focused on your camera – it makes it a little more difficult to keep an eye on your buddy. If you have a buddy that does not carry a camera – that’s even better.

Memory Hog

Video takes up much more memory than still photos! Make sure to use at least a 16G or bigger card – and – empty the card or change cards at the end of every dive day. Also carry back-up memory as well as a back-up battery.

Lighting – the same, but different

When taking video – you will need constant light from underwater video lights, as opposed to strobes. Although you will be using completely different lights, the ideal positioning is about the same for both.

Getting even better color

If you will only be editing your video with simple software programs like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker – you will not have the ability to edit your video’s color to the degree that you might be able to edit photos. So – use manual white balance if possible. More & more cameras have that option now. If you have Final Cut Pro, Premiere, After Effects or another professional editing software – you will have options for editing color, but – it’s always ideal to start with the best footage possible!

Don’t bore your audience – keep them wanting more

I know diving is exciting, but when people are watching footage later, it’s not exciting to watch the same thing on a screen for endless minutes. Yes, minutes can be way too long! Unless you are making a documentary or trip video for a group – videos should be 2-7 minutes long – with most falling in the 2 - 3 minute range, especially if you are posting them online. Keep each clip within that video around 3-10 seconds – unless there is something super exciting or captivating. Add some music to help keep things moving (but please follow copyright law).

Composition is now a moving story

So, you got the idea of how to take a good photo – now you need to look beyond that one shot – expand your intuition and predict movement. Think about how your subject is moving, then position yourself to capture it at an interesting angle. Also think about moving yourself while shooting. This will be different, try to keep camera motion as smooth as possible and again, be aware of your environment.

It’s not always best to follow your subject

Just like video on land, sometimes it’s better to let your subject enter or leave the frame – that can make a nice transition to another shot. And, you probably already know from photography – no one wants to see fish butt, that is true in video as well.

Don’t wait too long to shoot

It’s always better to have extra footage rather than too little. You want to have the before and the after – if you wait too long and just get the middle – it can make the flow of your video awkward. The same is true at the end of your take, continue filming so you have room for a transition, plus you never know what’s going to happen underwater!

Keep it crisp & clear

Before you take your camera underwater – make sure your video settings are set to PROGRESSIVE – even if you have to choose a smaller image size – choose the largest progressive setting. Interlaced settings will give you nothing but headaches when shooting underwater. Think about a group of vertical striped fish swimming by – if you shoot interlaced video – your camera only record every other horizontal line – can you picture how that might be a problem?

How many frames?

Because of the movement – the more the better! You don’t have to think about the old standards – of 24 or 30 – at least not while you are shooting. If your camera can shoot 60 frames per second or 120 (making sure it is still progressive) – go for it! More frames means more information which means clearer motion.

Before you take your camera out - set the movie file settings & keep it “Progressive.” This applies to all camera groups.