Are you a scuba diver and you got a GoPro? Good choice! The GoPro is an amazing camera for underwater use! In this article I will tell you what you need to get your GoPro ready for the underwater use.
You don’t have a GoPro yet? Go get one and jump into the water to test is out. Wait, read this article before doing so.
When you know how to properly use your GoPro underwater you will get incredible footage and have fun with it for many many years.
Is GoPro waterproof?
Before you jump in, you will need to figure out if your GoPro ist waterproof for the depth you would like to use it at.
It’s actually quite simple – here comes a very useful listing of the waterproofness of the different GoPro models:
The GoPro HERO5 and HERO6 are waterproof to 10 m (33 feet), with a sleeve you will be able to take it to 40 m (131 feet). The housing does not come with the camera anymore and you will have to buy one separately.
How to use a GoPro underwater: Make sure the case does not leak
This is very important. In 99% of the cases when water gets into the housing it is the fault of the user.
Although I have not seen GoPro housings leak very often. Other cameras in underwater housings tend to do that way more frequently.
Follow these steps to ensure your camera is safe:
Check the set-up of your camera
Make sure everything is set, the battery is charged and the SD card inserted and there is enough room on it. Remember: you can’t change cards underwater and you won’t be able to delete single videos like you do on a normal camera
Make sure it is clean
The camera lens has to be clean or your videos might turn out blurry
the same is true for the front of the housing. For the same reason it is important to protect these parts from scratches.
Test the case before butting the GoPro inside for the first time
Put it in water and see if there are any bubbles coming out between the O-ring (the rubber piece where the camera closes) and the casing. That would mean it is leaking. Better to realize this before the dive or snorkling than underwater soaking your camera.
Don’t forget about the SD card cover
Make sure the cover of the SD card is closed or out of the housing.
A few times when I have seen a GoPro getting wet or not working underwater the reason was the lid cramped inside the housing in the wrong place. Yes, it did happen to me as well.
Put the GoPro in and perform a final test by pushing it underwater, switching it on underwater (in a rinse tank in the dive shop or just a sink) and take a photo. If all of that works your chances are good that it will during your dive or snorkling.
Now switch it off until you use it. I have seen that happening as well, one of my friends checked his GoPro in the rinse tank at the dive shop. We then took a 30 Minute ride to the dive site, jumped in, got to a cave with white tip reef sharks circling and his camera was out of battery. I did not replace the SD card, so this was full and another friend did not bring his camera, because we already had two with us. Very unfortunate.
Don’t lose your GoPro
Make sure the GoPro is attached to you. I have seen people losing their GoPros so many times and even more often I have seen people finding them. Unfortunately, I’ve not found one yet.
So please, attach the camera to your body.
As a scuba diver put it in your BCD pocket and attach it to the BCD. If you bring it on a stick attach the stick to your wrist and make sure that the camera is fixed properly to the stick. When jumping in hold the camera, forget about the weight belt (I did not just say that) – hold the mask with one hand and the GoPro with the other hand.
As a snorkler you don’t have to hold on to anything else than the GoPro, so attach it to your wrist and hold on to it when jumping in or maybe hold on to your mask as well.
Forget about head straps. They don’t work for diving and you will end up losing everything. There are special masks you can attach it to, don’t. You don’t want endless videos of your nervous head movements.
How to use a GoPro underwater – on a stick, mount, handles or without anything
Just don’t chase anything around with your stick like the person behind us on the photo below (PHOTO)
Also remember that other divers are taking photos too and they won’t be happy with a GoPro in front of their camera.
Floating hand grip
If you want to get the best results this is the way to go. You will be able to attach lights to the handles as well and you will get the least movement in your videos.
However, this will make your GoPro bulky. You might as well get a bigger camera which allows you to take better photos or stay with the GoPro if you prefer to take videos.
I sometimes bring a tripod to dives to take footage of the scenery and all the wildlife to create a time lapse from it. The tricky thing here is to find a place to put the tripod or attach it to when you use a gorillapod. That’s what I use.
DO NOT ATTACH THE CAMERA TO CORAL! If you find a rock you can place it there or on sandy bottom if the current isn’t too strong. And stay close if you are diving in a busy area. Someone might think you lost the GoPro and just take it. Or attach a little tag indicating that the GoPro is there on purpose.
When you first get your GoPro chances are that you just bring it like that, which is fine, I guess. It is the option I chose a lot bringing the GoPro as a second / back-up to dives where I also had my “big” camera with me.
This is not the favorite option. Your videos will be more shaky and your fingers might end up in front of the lens, especially when wearing gloves. I tried that in Galapagos, yes, right, I’ve got footage from Galapagos with a glove in front of the sharks.
Mount it on your other camera
For underwater photographers this might be a nice option. With a big SLR place it somewhere on the arms and let it record while you take photos of stuff. If you miss the craziest creatures while taking photos your GoPro will know and show it to you later.
I did not like to have the GoPro attached to my camera as I use a compact system where the GoPro did not fit in very well.
How to use a GoPro underwater – Do you need other accessoires?
Yes! You do need a red filter!
Red is the first color you lose when under water, your footage will turn out green or blue without a red filter or lights.
For different depth different filters are available to bring the red back into your footage. For green water use a magenta filter, for blue water a red filter
While the handles fit all GoPro models you have to make sure you get the red filter designed for your GoPro model!
Other filters and lenses
Macro filter: These can be used to shoot small critters, I would rather recommend to get a compact camera instead of an action camera if you would like to shoot small stuff
Switch filters: Several producers offer systems that allow you to switch between different lenses. Some switch between different red filters, others between a red filter for wide-angle and a macro lens for small objects.
If you would like to take great footage in deeper waters of landscapes and animals in at a closer distance you might wanna add lights to your GoPro. Again you might consider buying a compact camera now if your main reason to get a GoPro is the size. It won’t be compact anymore with all these accessories.
A friend of mine took videos in caves in Mexico using a GoPro with lights, these are just incredible. Have a look yourself:
The light options are endless. Unlike with other cameras where most underwater photographers use strobes (flash) you will buy a camera light (torch) to use with your GoPro. A small economic one will light up animals that are close to you while more professional lights can light up a huge area, like you have seen in the cave footage.
After using it
Rinse it off in fresh water. This is especially important when you were using it in salt water. The salt water will make your GoPro rosty and it won’t last as long. Just put it in the rinse tank or a sink or wash it under a tap
Carefully dry the camera and only then take it out. I have seen it happening a lot that the camera was fine during the dive and then got wet when the wet housing was opened.
In short – you need
- a GoPro and a housing if you go deeper than 10 m (31 feet).
- something to attach the GoPro to your body with
- a red filter
- maybe a stick or mount to hold the camera steady and take selfies
- maybe some other stuff