GoPro Filters, Lights and Color Correction

The wide range of GoPro accessories marketed to underwater video shooters can seem daunting at first. Should you use GoPro filters? Video lights? Both? And what about editing to change the color of your footage… that’s what the pros do, right?

This article will explain filters, video lights, color correction and when to use each technique for underwater GoPro video. This article also applies to smartphone housings and other action cameras like the Insta360 Ace Pro as well!


Using GoPro Filters

Using GoPro Video Lights

Manual Color Correction

Best GoPro Filters

Best GoPro Video Lights

GoPro Tray & Handle Kits


Do I Need a GoPro Filter Underwater?

Yes, a GoPro filter will deliver the best color accuracy when shooting underwater. Scuba divers can also use video lights for close subjects instead of a filter (and sometimes in addition to a filter depending on criteria I discuss below). Learn why in this article + video tutorial.

Featured Video

All About GoPro Filters Underwater

When do you use Filters, Lights, and Manual Color Correction?

Great color can help take your underwater video from good to great. As divers, we learn (and then see firsthand) how color is lost as we descend in the water column. The light also becomes less intense and the contrasts we see near the surface become more muted. To bring back the rich colors of the reef and marine life, divers often shine a light or torch, photographers pop strobe flashes, and videographers use GoPro filters, video lights and/or manual color correction.

We use all three of these options to bring the red and other colors back into the scene, delivering a more interesting, color-accurate image. Accurate color balance renders whites as neutral. In other word, the whites will look white. Some might argue that the dull blue or green ambient tint is most-realistic since that’s the underwater scene we see without artificial light or filters, but the majority of videographers prefer to use these tools to create more pop in the image.

So how does underwater color correction work? How do you choose between filters, lights and manual color correction when shooting GoPro video? Let’s break it down to the basics.

GoPro Filters

The most common GoPro filter is red in color, designed to be used in clear blue water. Red is the first color lost as we dive deeper into the water, and this filter adds red back into the scene as we descend past 15ft (5m). Magenta filters are generally used in green water.

The GoPro camera is always looking at the color in the scene and automatically determining the white balance it determines most accurate. When the red filter is applied, the GoPro sees red and selects a warmer white balance (which is measured by kelvin temperature). The result is more color and contrast in the scene.

When to Use GoPro Filters

GoPro filters are best used below about 15ft (5m). Place the filter over the dive housing port and you’re good to go. Easy!

In bright shallow water (above 15ft) you can often use a red filter if you’re shooting at a down angle, but I recommend using different compositions in order to film intriguing video. If you shoot horizontally or up into the water column using a red filter, especially aiming towards the sun, you may see a red tint in the scene. We want to avoid this red tint at all costs since it looks so unnatural.

One solution here is to use a shallow water filter, which has less red than a standard red dive filter. See my Best Filters guide below.

The Bottom Line: Use your GoPro filter at dive depths but be careful and experiment in the shallows to find the best combo that works for you.

SHOOTING TIP: Shoot with the sun at your back when using a GoPro filter. By doing this, more of the scene is lit by the sun, is brighter, and will deliver better color through the filter.

sea lion portrait with gopro
A playful sea lion poses for the camera. Shot on a GoPro HERO6 with video lights and no filter.

GoPro Video Lights

Video lights are the best choice for shooting any scene where you’re within about 5ft of the subject (fish, reef, sharks, scuba diver, etc.). This is one of the few pieces of gear where spending more money will buy better results, since the stronger the light (the more lumens), the more vibrant color you can produce while shining through more water.

Many divers also opt for two video lights when shooting GoPro underwater video since two lights provide more coverage of wide scenes (like a reef or manta ray).

When the lights are on, the GoPro will detect all the color, delivering an accurate white balance for the scene. The colors will POP and contrast and texture will be added naturally through light and shadow.

Ideally, you will mount your GoPro on a tray and handle system, which not only helps keep the GoPro steady, but provides a place to mount adjustable arms and clamps for the lights. This rig provides a comfortable and stable way to hold the camera, plus the flexibility to position the lights to create the best lighting effects for each scene.

Featured Video

3 Tips for GoPro Light Positioning Underwater

When to Use Underwater Video Lights

Video lights often excel over filters anytime you’re within a 5ft range of the subject. They will light the subject, making it bright with nice color and contrast.

How to Mount Video Lights

Video lights need to be mounted to arms so that you can properly position them for the shot. The arms can be loc-line, an arm and clamp system, or SeaLife’s Flex Connect system. These arms are mounted to a tray and handle system. It sounds like a lot, but I provide full details in my article Gear Guide for Small Underwater Cameras.

Can you Use GoPro Filters and Video Lights at the Same Time?

Yes, you can use GoPro filters and video lights at the same time as long as you keep the following tips in mind.

In most filming situations, especially with new GoPro models and correct GoPro settings, you will see nice results when pairing filters with video lights. This is because the filter will add color and some contrast back into the scene, while the light provides a touch of brightness.

The exception here is when you’re very close to your subject (within 3ft / 1m) and using strong lights with 2,000 or more lumens. In this case you may find that the power of the strobes is sufficient to produce bright, clean colors and that the filter may actually make the scene more drab.

Be sure to experiment since there are many variables, including your lights, composition style, dive conditions, and shooting situations!

Have questions? Let’s schedule a Virtual Private Lesson.

Manual Color Correction with GoPro

Color correction refers to manually adjusting the white balance of the scene, whether in the camera itself or on the footage while editing on the computer, tablet or phone. The goal is to make the color white (or a neutral gray) look true to life with no blue or green tint.

WATCH THIS VIDEO TUTORIAL: Underwater Video Basics

Many serious videographers will rely on their camera’s manual white balance feature underwater, using a white slate or other object as a reference for the camera to adjust kelvin temperature until the slate looks like a true white.

GoPro cameras don’t have an automated process like these more advanced compact, mirrorless or DSLR cameras, so the best option is to get the color as accurate as possible through use of a filter or lights, or manually selecting the white balance in the GoPro settings, and then addressing subtle color correction during post processing.

The goal is to get the color as accurate as possible in-camera, since image quality deteriorates when making big adjustments during post processing.

Most video editing software includes an easy-to-use white balance adjustment tool, often a dropper icon, that automatically adjusts white balance when you click on an area of white or neutral gray in the scene. I use Adobe Premiere Pro, however iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are great free alternatives.

After you make this initial white balance adjustment, you can play with the software’s various color correction tools to make small changes until the white balance looks good to your eye.

scuba diver and sea lion shot on gopro
A scuba diver captures a shot of a sea lion pup in La Paz, Mexico. Shot on a GoPro HERO6 with video lights and no filter.

Best GoPro Filters

There are quite a few choices when selecting the best GoPro filters for underwater video. Luckily, the underwater filters I recommend are compatible with the Protective Dive Housing and Dive Housing used with the HERO 12, 11, 10, 9 , 8, 7, 6, and 5. This leaves the choice between Single GoPro Filters and Double GoPro Filter Kits.

Do you need a housing to use GoPro filters?

Yes, I recommend using a dive housing any time you’re thinking about using underwater filters. This is because the filters become more useful at depth, often at or below the depth rating of the GoPro camera without the housing.

I actually recommend using the housing for all ocean activities since it better protects the camera from a possible flood, keeps the microphone ports clean from debris, and creates a cheaper replacement if you scratch the lens of the housing instead of the camera itself (*if not subscribed to GoPro with “no questions asked” camera replacements).

Double GoPro Filter Kits

Double filter kits provide the versatility to alternate between two different filters during a dive by flipping them over or away from the lens. Flipping a filter on or of is much easier than popping a single filter on and off, plus you don’t need to worry about where to keep it when not using it.

In addition, all filters should be burped underwater (learn more in my Wet Lenses Video Tutorial). The hinges on double filters make it very easy to burp the filter after entering the water.

You can gear up with a shallow and deep filter, red and magenta filter, or even a red filter plus macro lens for subjects closer than GoPro’s 12″ minimum focus distance.

While it’s possible to use a colored filter and macro lens at the same time, you’ll get best results from using a dedicated video light with the macro lens instead of the filter.

Backscatter FLIP12 Pro Package
Backscatter FLIP12 Pro Package (GoPro Filters)

This high-quality aluminum flip system includes two filters plus the Backscatter Macromate Mini. The filters are the DIVE+ Filter (20-45ft) and the DEEP+ Filter (45-80ft). The Macromate Mini not only magnifies small subjects so they appear larger on the sensor, but reduces the GoPro’s 12″ minimum focus distance so that you can achieve sharp focus very close to the subject (GoPro’s Narrow lens setting is recommended).

I highly recommend this kit if you’re a scuba diver and want to shoot a wide array of scenes.

This filter set is compatible with the GoPro HERO12, HERO11, HERO10, and 9-5 in the Protective Dive Housing or Super Suit.

$159 at Backscatter Photo

Backscatter FLIP12 Two Filter Kit
Backscatter FLIP12 Two Filter Kit for GoPro

This is the GoPro filter kit for you if not interested in filming small macro life. The high-quality aluminum flip kit includes both DIVE+ (20-45ft) and DEEP+ (45-80ft) filters. Flip either of the filters on and off during the dive as needed. You can also swap out one of these filters for Backscatter’s Greenwater Filter.This filter set is compatible with the GoPro HERO12, HERO11, HERO10, 9-5 in the Protective Dive Housing or Super Suit.

$79 at Backscatter Photo

Single GoPro Filter Kits

Single GoPro Filter kits are perfect for those that want a single filter. This could be a red filter for blue water, a shallow filter, deep filter, or others.

Most filter kits allow you to swap out the filter, so while you are limited to one filter on a dive, you can change them out based on dive conditions and dive profile. If you’re looking for versatility and/or being able to shoot large scenes and small subjects, then skip down to the double filters.

Backscatter FLIP1+ Single Filter Kit
Backscatter FLIP11 Single Filter Kit for GoPro

Simple, easy flip-on / flip-off filter for underwater video. The included DIVE+ (20-40ft) filter is the best all-around filter for scuba diving (the best light is in these shallower depths), however you can mount any other Backscatter GoPro filter, making this a very versatile kit. These include the DEEP (45-80ft) filter and green water filter. This flip adapter kit is compatible with the GoPro HERO12, HERO11, HERO10, and 9-5 in the Protective Dive Housing or Super Suit.

This is my top recommendation for a single GoPro underwater filter set!

$39 at Backscatter Photo

Backscatter Sharp Wide Lens Pro Package
Backscatter sharp wide lens pro package for GoPro dive housing

Backscatter’s Sharp Wide Lens is an excellent choice for videographers interested in expanding the camera’s field of view while also opening up creative compositions like close focus wide angle. This package includes two filters to bring home great underwater color.

$275 | Backscatter Photo

Diveveryday 67mm Lens Adapter for GoPro (Hero 9-12)
Diveveryday GoPro filter kit

Diveveryday manufactures an adapter that attaches securely to the front of your GoPro dive housing, making your camera compatible with any 67mm threaded lens (the universal standard). They also make a pink filter and a lens holder in case you’re carrying multiple lenses.

$69 Lens/Filter Adapter \ $19 Pink Filter

Note that the tray + handle kit, shutter extension lever kit, and extra lens holder featured in the photo are sold separately.

SOONSUN 3-Pack Dive Filters for HERO12, HERO11, 10, and 9
SOONSUN 3 Filter Kit for GoPro HERO 11, 10, 9

Another affordable single filter option, this 3-pack comes with a red dive filter, snorkel filter and magenta for freshwater or green water. Designed to fit the GoPro HERO12, HERO 11, HERO 10 and HERO 9 Protective Dive Housing only.

$20 | Amazon

Best GoPro Video Lights

GoPro video lights bring the color back into your underwater footage – at least with subjects that are within 3 feet (1m). A single light is great for fish portraits and smaller subjects, but two lights is ideal for reefscapes, big animals and other large scenes.

Video lights are one of the few items where I recommend spending more. This is because a higher budget simply buys more lumens. The more powerful light will better light your scene, especially if further away.

Underwater GoPro Lights are also better to use with a macro filter than a red filter, because you’ll see much brighter and more vivid color, plus contrasts and shadows created by the angle of your light to the scene or subject.

Here are some great GoPro video lights at various price points. These will work great for all GoPros, including the HERO12 Black, HERO11 Black, HERO10, HERO9, HERO8, and all previous models.

View ALL Lights I recommend: Best Underwater Video Lights

Best Underwater Video Lights banner

Light & Motion Sola Video 2000 S/F
light & motion sola video 2000 s/f

The Sola Video 2000 delivers high quality light in a small package. The switch on top is very easy to operate, while colored LEDs tell you how much battery life is left. Toggle easily between Flood and Spot beams.

$380: Backscatter Photo | Amazon

Kraken Sports Hydra 2500 V2
Kraken Hydra 2500 V2 Light

This 2500 lumen light is a great starting point for underwater video shooters either as a single light or double light system. The light features a wide flood beam for even lighting and powerful 2500 lumen beam.

The Hydra 2500 is also a nice investment for divers who are interested in still photography, as it’s a fantastic macro focus light.

$299 | Backscatter Photo | $325 w kit Mozaik Camera

Light & Motion Sola Video 3800 F
light & motion sola video pro 3800

Bring on the power in this 3800 lumen video light. A dome provides even lighting with soft falloff for the meticulous video shooter. The control button is very easy to flip on and off. I use these lights with my GoPro and love them.

$499 | Backscatter Photo

$449 for FC Black Version | Mozaik Camera

*In my camera bag!

Backscatter Macro Wide 4300 (MW-4300)
Backscatter Macro Wide 4300 (MW-4300)

The Backscatter Macro Wide 4300 is a powerful, versatile light. The wide 4300 lumen beam is perfect for wide-angle and macro shooting, while the narrow 1400 lumen macro mode beam is great as a primary dive light or night dive light. Additionally, the macro mode pairs well with the Backscatter Optical Snoot 1, for those who want to get creative – either with your GoPro, or if you intend to upgrade cameras and want to future-proof your investment.

$499 | Backscatter Photo | Mozaik Camera

*In my camera bagMy Primary Video Lights!

GoPro Tray & Handle Kits

Below are some great filter and light kits. Keep in mind that you may only need a tray and handles with filters, or maybe you need that plus two video lights. Maybe you want no filters and a single video light.

If you have questions, you can contact me through the Camera Questions page.

Backscatter FLIP12 GoPro Wide Angle Blue Water Package
Backscatter FLIP12 tray, handle, and filter kit for GoPro

This is the perfect kit to get started filming GoPro underwater video. The tray and handle system is machined from a single piece of aluminum (no extra parts to corrode). It’s small, lightweight, and very affordable. The FLIP12 two filter kit is also included. All you need to add is the GoPro, Dive Housing and optional video lights.

This kit is compatible with the GoPro HERO12 Black, HERO11, HERO10 and models 5-9 in the Protective Dive Housing or Super Suit.

$179 | On Backscatter

Mozaik Camera Dual Sola 2500 Video Light Package
Mozaik dual sola 2500 flood video light package for gopro

This GoPro tray and light kit is everything you need to start shooting great underwater video.

The kit includes a compact tray and handle system, flex arms for light positioning, two powerful 2500 Light & Motion Sola lights, and a GoPro mount.

$780 | Mozaik Camera

Backscatter Sola 2500 Dual Video Light Package

This GoPro light kit is compact, efficient and powerful. It includes Backscatter’s compact tray and handle system, GoPro mount, flex arms for light positioning, and two Light & Motion Sola 2500 lumen lights.

It’s everything you need and can be used with any GoPro or small action camera.

$669 | Backscatter Photo

Mozaik Dual Big Blue Black Molly V Light + Handle System
Mozaik Camera Big Blue Molly V GoPro video light kit

This compact kit features dual Black Molly V lights (2600 lumens each). The light bodies are small for the power and the boomerang style tray ensures the lights stay positioned behind the camera while also making it easy to flip filters on and off the GoPro.

$899 | Mozaik Camera

In Conclusion

GoPro filters and underwater video lights are the best tools for creating vibrant images with white balance as close to accurate as possible. To take your color preferences one step further, you can make subtle color corrections while editing the footage.

  • Filters are best used in clear water with subjects that are farther than 5ft away.
  • Underwater video lights are best used for close subjects and a tray/handle system.

I hope this article helps you pick out the perfect filter set for your underwater GoPro video.

More GoPro Tutorials

GoPro Best Underwater Video Settings

How to Keep Your GoPro Steady

GoPro HERO7 Underwater Video Settings

3 Tips for GoPro Underwater Video

Brent Durand

Professional writer and underwater photo instructor. Brent is an avid diver and surfer, and has led many intensive photo workshops around the world.