Shooting underwater video is a great way to capture marine life action and share the views we see while diving. We know that shaky footage is virtually unwatchable, but also know that it’s so hard to hold the camera steady – especially a small GoPro camera.
So how do the pros keep their GoPro steady while diving?
The answer can be broken down into two parts. First, we need to be a solid diver and very cognizant that we are shooting a video clip. Second, we add some gear to help keep the GoPro steady.
It’s also important to use the best GoPro settings for underwater video.
A Stable Diver = Steady GoPro Footage
My first advice for shooting any underwater video is to master your buoyancy without the camera.
If you’re scuba diving and floating up and down or struggling to keep your legs, fins and arms still, then you’ll likely have very noticeable shaking in your footage.
If you’re a snorkeler or freediver and not floating calmly, or are kicking your fins in a quick choppy manner you’ll also notice substantial shaking in your footage.
A good video shooter should be able to keep their body as motionless as possible (even while swimming) and still be completely aware of the reef and marine life around them.
Think About What You’re Shooting
With good buoyancy comes a clear mind. Good GoPro video footage is well planned and well composed, and a clear mind helps you to focus on the scene at hand, thinking about composition and physically holding the video camera stable. Of course, this is in addition to monitoring your depth, air pressure and other dive data.
Here’s an observation on this. We all see tons of underwater video shooters with GoPros mounted on their big camera housings, but do you ever see any of that footage? Nope, because running video while shooting stills just doesn’t work – the GoPro (and footage) is moving all over the place as the diver focuses on still images.
The only time this technique works is if the shooter consciously focuses on keeping the whole system steady (e.g. stops shooting stills) and stabile specifically for the video shot.
Use Gear to Keep Your GoPro Steady
A tray and handle setup is the best way to keep your GoPro steady underwater. The wider the tray, the farther apart your hands and the more stabile the camera.
Selfie sticks are not a good choice because they wobble, especially when extended towards a subject. So leave those sticks at home unless you really want to capture a selfie perspective.
Several different brands make great GoPro tray and handle setups, including Ultralight Control Systems, Big Blue, Beneath the Surface, and Kraken Sports. The added benefit is that you can attach video lights to the handles via light/strobe arms and clamps. Check out my guide below for all the info.
Video Tutorial – Article – Buyer’s Guide
Best GoPro Trays and Handles
These are some of my favorite tray and handle options for mounting your GoPro. Once you start using these you notice how much more stabile your video will become. Tray and Handle systems are also the foundation for mounting lights, filter kits, and other accessories.
I’ve included GoPro poles as well since they’re great for selfie perspectives. Generally I do not recommend these underwater since they may sway or vibrate while filming, but sometimes you really want that wide shot composed with the extra length offered by the pole with arm extended. No matter what, do not stick a pole in the face of marine life.
Poles and Tripods
SANDMARC Pole for GoPro
The SANDMARC Pole is a simple selfie stick that will hold up to ocean use. Many of the other poles use metal clamps that will rust out fairly quickly if used regularly in the ocean without perfect maintenance.
$29.99 on Amazon
GoPro Max Grip + Tripod
The GoPro Max Grip + Tripod is my favorite pole for underwater video and photos. It’s compact and easy to pack while traveling and expands into a tripod for all sorts of uses (static shots, timelapses, b-roll, etc.).
$59.49 on Amazon
The Shorty is a great selfie stick and tripod combo, but I would go for the GoPro Max Grip + Tripod above since the longer pole will give you wider selfie perspectives.
Tray and Handle Systems
Backscatter Double Handle & Tray
This is a great tray/handle setup so you can hold the GoPro steady with two hands. You can even add Ball Adapter or Flex Arms to the handles in order to use video lights.
$79 at Backscatter Photo
Mozaik Flex-Arm Dual GoPro Tray with Ball Mounts
This lightweight tray and handle system provides dual-handed control of your rig, a GoPro mount, and flex arms for easy positioning of your underwater video lights. There are two versions: YS Mount and Ball Mount. The YS mount is a bit lighter, however pros tend to move towards ball mounts. Luckily, most video lights come with both options so that you can start with YS and switch over to ball mounts if you feel the need.
Backscatter Sola 2500 Dual Video Light Package
Make it easy on yourself. This is one of the best setups for a GoPro kit with compact tray, handles, loc-line arms and two powerful Light & Motion Sola 2500 video lights.
$669 at Backscatter Photo
Mozaik Camera Dual Sola 2500 Video Light Package
This GoPro light kit uses two powerful lights for wide, even lighting in a small package. Mozaik has included a GoPro mount and two YS mounts for the lights so that you’re ready to go film.
$749 | Mozaik Camera
Ultralight Control Systems – GoPro Mounting Accessories
Scuba divers will often want to mount a GoPro to the top of their big camera housing. This is done using a simple ball adapter, clamp and ball arm (pictured above). Ultralight Control Systems creates high quality arm and clamp system for GoPro and professional systems alike.
The components you will need vary depending on underwater housing, so email me through my Camera Questions page and I can help you pick out the exact gear you need to mount your GoPro.
More GoPro Tutorials