Mention underwater photography, and most would think of thousands of dollars worth of equipment – camera, camera casing, diving equipment even. Well, that’s not necessarily true. Today I’m going to share with you guys, not just how to do it on a seriously tight budget, but also my own experience from the latest underwater shoot I did with Angie and Kazeki.

But before we start, the question you have to ask yourself is how much risk you’re willing to take for an underwater shoot. Me? I did the shoot expecting a worst case scenario of damaging the camera’s electronics from getting wet. Read on if you are willing to take that risk.

So let’s get straight to the point then…

Angie as SF-A2 Miku (Vocaloid) // Photo by Anthony aka blur
 

Making your own underwater casing

We all know you guys are dying to know how to do it. Well, the materials needed to make your camera submersible is common sense, really. A plastic bag, a piece of acrylic or glass, and lots of sellotape. Yup, it is as simple as it sounds. And it costs way, way less than buying underwater casing or a “submersible” camera. I’m talking about what… two meals worth maybe. Cheapest but again, risky.
Plastic Bagged Camera
 

Plastic Bag

Let’s start off with the plastic bag. Obviously, we do not use those you fill your groceries with. People use green bags nowadays anyway. Lol!
Instead, find plastic bags made to hold or store food. Those you use to hold noodles or soup during take-aways. That way, you know the bag is clean and, more importantly, waterproof. And please, only transparent or white colored plastic bags.

Acrylic

Something strong and sturdy to be able to withstand the water pressure. I used one which was 3mm thick. You should be able to find this at your local hardware store. Remember to talk to the shop on whether they can help you cut the acrylic should the size you buy be too big.

Sellotape

Wider is better. End of story.

Making the Casing

Here is what you need to do. As simple as it gets.
The first and most important step of the process is to cut a hole in the plastic bag, slightly smaller than the size of your acrylic. Stick the plastic bag onto the acrylic with sellotape, making sure it’s placed flat as you stick it, so as to make it leak-proof. Take off your shoulder strap from the camera. You do not want it messing up your grip when your camera is underwater. Then put your camera into the plastic bag, positioning it in a way that the lens is pointing towards the acrylic. Then tie up the opening of the plastic bag. Tie a few knots to make sure it is watertight.

Camera and Settings

It’s a given that the better the camera, the higher the chance of obtaining a good shot. And trust me, you will need all the dynamic range you can get. Especially in a shooting environment where you do not have the time to leisurely adjust the lighting and composition over and over again.
Even while shooting at a pool, where there were no waves or water currents, we had difficulties composing our shots. So you can imagine how much more difficult it will be at the beach. Another thing, as noobish as this sounds, is that you might also want to start firing rapid shots. There will be loads of eye blinking in your shots as cosplayers try to keep their eyes open under water trying to perform certain facial expressions. That and air bubbles coming out of the cosplayers’ mouth, nose, costumes, and “more”. Lol! You wouldn’t want to capture a perfectly composed shot only to have bubbles covering the cosplayers’ eyes. Yeah, photographers would know how that feels .. -.-”

As for how I did my shots, I used local focus method. I picked a specific point I wanted my camera to focus on, then discussed with the cosplayer on how the pose will be like and in which direction they should be moving in, swimming or not. As I mentioned above, it is near impossible to stay still under water, even if you are a good swimmer. You’ll be surprised how much difference swimming with your usual attire and swimming with a costume is. Seeing as it is impossible to stay still, you might as well set the shot up in a way that the direction of the movement would be what you aim to capture, right?

So you have rapid shots set, local focusing checked, next is continuous AF. Although the speed difference between manually refocusing the shot and have AF do the job is arguably minimal, there is still a difference. And as they say, a little goes a long way.

Angie as SF-A2 Miku (Vocaloid) // Photo by Anthony aka blur
 
Kazeki as Gumi (Vocaloid, Megpoid) // Photo by Anthony
 

Cosplayer

As for the cosplayers, waterproof makeup does NOT work. The moment you get into the water, eyelashes will drift off, eyes with contact lenses on will hurt, powder and foundation will smudge, well, you get the picture.

Also, don’t even think about using double sided tape and elephant glue on costumes. The moment you go into the water, the pressure of the water pushing your costume up alone will tear it apart. Sewn costumes is the way to go. Finally, take note of the little details like accessories and ornaments. Make sure they are secured tightly.

Helpers

You will definitely need at least one other swimmer, someone who can help hold the photographer in place. In my case, I wasn’t a good swimmer, so I had a helper push me all the way down to the bottom of the pool, then hold me still and prevent me from floating up while both my hands were on the camera and I concentrated on shooting alone. In fact, I had another helper push Angie down to the bottom of the pool to get a certain shot.

That’s about it then. Before going for the actual shoot, test things out by dipping your newly-made casing into a bucket of water. Check for water entering the plastic bag. Take a few shots and see how it goes. If it all goes well, you’re good to go!

Article by Anthony aka blur
 

                  

13 Comments

  1. Silver says:

    My concern would be ruining a costume or wig that I’d plan to wear later, since most wigs and materials are expensive when you’re on a tight budget. When doing an underwater shoot, do the cosplayers wear (something like) a copy of the cosplay they wish to do and a different wig? Or are you guys really “diving in” with a cosplay that gets worn later in a different photoshoot?

  2. Wing Wong says:

    Wow. That’s some amazing photography, especially with cosplayers!

    I love the underwater rig you setup for your camera. I’m just amazed at the images you and Angie and Kazeki achieved! I’m getting the feeling that some of the tips about pain/makeup/etc. partially came from direct experience…. :( Thanks for the great writeup!

  3. Nice Shoot and nice cosplayer =w= This should be need many experiment and research + pratice…Hope next time i also get do that :)…
    For the Angel of Shot from the camera nice job… getting the reflex on the top layer of water.. and getting a nice place the pool inside having holding bars =w=

  4. Edylisation says:

    Silver – it’s only a water! it the same as if you would like to wash your wig after styling it to use to another csplay. and with the costume it’s like puting it to wash machine.
    I don’t think water can destroy a well-made costume or wig.

    • Silver says:

      The last time I washed a wig, it came out really frizzy, and I haven’t been able to fix it since.

      • Kaye says:

        Hate to say it, but it must have been a poorly made wig, or the proper precautions weren’t taken while cleaning the wig. If taken care of properly after being submersed in chlorinated water, everything should come out alright.

        • Glenn says:

          Most pools have chlorine in them. Ie, bleach. Unless you have patch tested all the fabrics used for much longer than the shoot can possibly go on, then you are surely risking the colour/dye.

  5. Kiyomi says:

    Since make up doesn’t work underwater, does that mean no make up whatsoever?

    • Kaye says:

      If you get the quality waterproof stuff, (and work quickly underwater) you shouldn’t have much of a problem. I’d suggest checking Sephora.com for great high-quality waterproof makeup.

      • Kaye says:

        Sorry to look like a spammer, but I made the above statement after personal experience. I understand it wont work for everyone. Again, sorry.

  6. Zero says:

    And also regarding the contact lenses, does that mean we can’t wear them while underwater?

    • Iji says:

      even if you can’t it’s really easy to photoshop your eye colour. I have dark brown eyes and i was able to make them them blue. Just google a tutorial may i sugest the website ‘Deviantart’ there are good totorials there

  7. Glenn says:

    Surely weight belts on the photographer would help. An assistant may still be required, but it would help.

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