• Matt McGee

Finding Your Pool

I'm going to be real honest here, if you don't own a pool, this might be the hardest part about shooting fashion underwater. I don't own a pool. Let me tell you that finding a pool that will work for your shoot is not an easy task. All the planning, finding your inspiration, finding models, wardrobe, even getting the best gear... none of that matters if you don't have a pool.

So what kind of pool are you looking for? Well, as far as I'm concerned, you can make just about any pool work, but I'd prefer the following...

Fine art underwater photographer Matt McGee shows his setup for an underwater photo shoot
This was the pool setup I used for a shoot last year.

- 8 to10 feet deep in the deep end.

- easily accessible ladders or steps for the models

- straight edges rather than curved (helps with backdrop placement and retention)

- straight/flat walls in stead of curved (again, backdrop)

- someone who knows (and I can not stress this enough) how to get the water clean, and crystal clear

These are just a few variables that come into play, but the pool is essentially your studio underwater, so the quality of the pool and the clarity of the water will have a major impact on your underwater photography.

Where do you find a pool? Well, first off I'd check with friends. In my experience, this is hit or miss, and more often a miss than a hit. The main reason, I think, is liability. Nobody wants a bunch of models in dresses weighting them down so they sink to the bottom and potentially drown. At least not on their property. Another reason is that it takes several people to pull this off, and it's a major inconvenience to have a bunch of strangers at your house all day. Still another reason is that, if you're like me, you may be shooting nude models. Even if the final image doesn't show nudity, the models will be walking around the pool, and the neighbors could potentially get an eyeful, to if the homeowner has young kids, they will definitely not want this. So, as you can see, using a friend's pool is not always the easiest answer.

Matt McGee in the pool for an underwater photo shoot
It doesn't have to be big, or even outdoors

My best advice is to get on Air BnB and look for a rental property with a pool. You can usually find properties that have a pool that you can use. Sometimes it's part of the house that you get to use, and sometimes it's the entire house. If you can find one of these, you're in good shape. It's nice if you have access to a bathroom and an area for models to change and do makeup. I usually put wardrobe on the pool deck have access it easily, and to keep all the wet clothes out of the house.

When approaching the property owner, let them know in detail what you want to use the pool for. Tell them how many people you anticipate being at your shoot, if you will be using scuba in their pool, let them know that you will have a lifeguard present, that you plan on putting a backdrop in the water, etc etc. You don't want to show up and start doing a bunch of things that the owner didn't plan on.

*** Tip: send the owner some sample images of the type of photography you are trying to do***

I've found that when the property owner sees what you are trying to do, and that you've put some thought and planning into this, they sometimes get excited about the idea, and are more likely to let you use their property and pool. One owner was so into the project that they even wanted some prints from the photo shoot so they could hang them on the walls at their Air BnB.

Underwater photographer Matt Mcgee working with models at an underwater photo shoot
If you will have a lot of people at your shoot, please let the owner know

No matter where you find your pool (unless it's yours), you need to be really respectful of the owners. Let them know what you will be doing. You may not have placed a backdrop in the water for an underwater fashion photo shoot, but if you haven't let me tell you, those things have to be weighted down. So, the owner needs to know that you will be putting objects in the water to hold down the backdrop. They may not like the idea of weights on the bottom of their pool, so they need to know this ahead of time. Also, tell them that you plan to use a backdrop, and that these things can leave all kinds of fibers in the water that could interfere with their filtration system. Discuss this ahead of time. If you do things during your photo shoot that damages the pool, you may end up paying for those damages.

*** Tip: let the pool owner know that you will wash the backdrop before the shoot so that it will not bleed color into their pool... be sure you do this ***

It's not always easy, but finding the right pool, and planning ahead on how to best utilize it can have a big impact on your underwater fashion photo shoot.

Let me know how you find a pool for your shoot. Air BnB? Personal friend? Or maybe you own your own, if so, let me know and we'll have a shoot...