Underwater portrait photography is a relatively new genre gaining popularity. As soon as she discovered underwater portrait photography, Australian born, Singapore based underwater portrait photographer ,Vanessa Clementson decided she wanted to be part of this challenging, unpredictable and fun photography trend. 

Step #1: Get Inspiration

Before diving in to underwater portrait photography, look up more information and find out more about the genre. For inspiration, look up other successful underwater photographers. Zena Holloway, Jenna Martin, Elena Kalis and Lucie Drlikova are incredibly talented photographers with their own style.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 100 | f/5 | 1/250s

Step #2: Equip Yourself with Waterproof Gear

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Ikelite waterproof housing and strobes, and a wide angle lens EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM with an 8 inch dome port are gears that I use. Using a wide angle lens helps capture the subject up close and avoid the loss of colour and detail. This is important for the post-processing step. Invest in higher end strobes to avoid a leak and take note that strobes in a shallow pool are not necessary if there is natural light.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 100 | f/5 | 1/125s

Step #3: Learn How To Control Your Buoyancy

It can be a challenge to keep the camera steady underwater so it helps to be able to control your buoyancy. To achieve this control, wear a weight belt and hold your breath as the subject is holding their breath. Sometimes I get so caught up in the action underwater I stay down too long and come up gasping for breath!

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 100 | f/5 | 1/1000s

Step #4: Explore Various Underwater Shooting Locations

With year-round warm climate and the availability of pools in homes or easy access to a public swimming pool, Singapore offers many shoot locations. Family shoots are held in pools with a depth of 1.2 metres and using a wide angle lens gives an illusion of more depth. On the other hand, fashion shoots would require the use of deeper waters.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 100 | f/5.6 | 1/320s

Alternatively in a underwater studio, you may experiment with different backdrops, costumes, and props for an underwater shoot. Create fun scenes such as a mermaid diving in the ocean or action shots with scooters.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 160 | f/5.6 | 1/200s

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 100 | f/5 | 1/125s

Underwater portrait photography is especially conducive to maternity photos. Being underwater lets the subject feel cool, weightless and graceful which is harder achieved on land. Add some soft flowing fabrics to create stunning images. Underwater wedding shoots or ‘trash the dress’ are also becoming more popular for their uniqueness.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 160 | f/5 | 1/1600s

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 100 | f/4 | 1/200s

Step #5: Be Patient in Providing Directions and Improvise

Subjects range from babies, families, mothers-to-be to models. Babies are great to shoot because they have a natural reflex to hold their breath and open their eyes. The most important thing is to relax and have fun! If a child just isn’t in the mood on the day, improvise. For example, this is opportunity to get cute shots of legs in the water, over/under shots or just having fun in the pool.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 400 | f/5 | 1/1000s

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 400 | f/16 | 1/200s

Adults often struggle but allow them to practise before the shoot and they usually warm up in a few minutes. Sometimes they even end up being complete naturals underwater.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 100 | f/4.5 | 1/200s

Step #6: Take Time to Post-Process Your Underwater Portrait Shots

Underwater portrait photography requires more editing than other photography because of the light lost underwater. To achieve natural skin tones, correct the white balance, contrast, clarity and reduce the blue tint. I use a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Editing an image can take anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour.

Before post-processing

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 100 | f/6.3 | 1/250

After post-processing

Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | ISO 100 | f/6.3 | 1/250

Love your experience with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III? Upgrade to the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV  – equipped with a full-frame CMOS sensor boasting of a 30.4-megapixel image resolution, ensuring detailed depictions and beautiful tones that will satisfy pro photographers.

For more mesmerising underwater portrait photographs head to www.vanessaclementsoncreative.com or follow her Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/vanessaclementsoncreative/.