• Matt McGee

How to do an underwater photo shoot

People message me all the time on social media wanting to know how to do an underwater fashion photo shoot. Well, I've decided to put together a series of blog posts about how I do it. Keep in mind that this is just what I do, and it's an evolving process, but it works for me.

I'll give you a quick overview of the process, and then elaborate on the different steps more in future posts, so stay tuned.

Planning your first underwater fashion photo shoot will take some time. Like usually months, so get started early. If you're planning on shooting in the warm summer months, you'll want to get started while the weather is still cold. I usually start by getting some ideas put together on a Pinterest board. This sort of allows me to organize my thoughts, and share with others what I'm aiming for.

The next thing is, for me at least, is the biggest challenge... finding a pool. I don't have a pool, so I'm at the mercy of friends and anyone else willing to help me. This aspect of planning will have a pretty big impact on how your underwater fashion photo shoot goes. I had no idea that there are so many varieties of pools out there. Some are really deep, and others are shallow lap pools.

You'll need to look into getting the proper camera gear. You can choose to go cheap, or you can break the bank and go big. Google "underwater camera housings" to get started. The housing is basically a case that your camera goes in to keep it dry. You will also want to check into lighting, and cables or triggers to fire the strobes.

Backdrops may be something that you want to use. I've used them for most of my shoots, and love the effect that you get. Most pools don't have pleasing colors or patterns on the wall, so if you don't use a backdrop, your photo composition may suffer. On the other hand you may do close up portraits with lots of bokeh and don't need a backdrop. Oh, and by the way, most backdrops don't sink, so you will need a way to hold those suckers down.

Swimming pool set up for an underwater fashion photo shoot
It can get crazy when you're doing an underwater fashion photo shoot with lots of models and photographers

Depending on where you live, finding models to work with can be a challenge, but finding the right people to work with will make or break your shoot. If you are luck enough to have professional underwater models that live in your city... pay them. Just do it. So many people who are new to underwater fashion photo shoots have trouble sinking, can't open their eyes underwater, blow off too many bubbles, the list goes on and on, but suffice it to say that this type of modeling is difficult, and paying a model that knows how to do it is money well spent. If you don't have someone like that, maybe find someone who was on a swim team. Those people are usually pretty good.

Once you've got all that lined up, then you can focus on wardrobe, props, accessories, etc. As I said, it's a lot to think about. It's all that's involved in a normal fashion shoot, but in an environment where we can't breathe.

One last thing... hire a lifeguard. It's just peace of mind. Swimming around in a dress that's waterlogged can make for a potentially dangerous situation. Be prepared.

I'll go into more detail in upcoming posts, but I just wanted to give a quick overview of what goes on to pull off an underwater fashion photo shoot.