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 that it’s so hard to hold the camera steady – especially a small GoPro. So how do the pros keep their GoPro steady while diving?
The answer can be broken down into two parts. On one side, we need to be a solid diver and very cognizant that we are shooting a video clip. On the other side, we add some gear to help keep the GoPro steady.
It’s also important to use the best GoPro settings for underwater video.
GoPro video from Anilao, Philippines.
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 floating up and down or struggling to keep your legs, fins and arms still, then you’ll likely have shaky footage regardless of even the best image stabilization. A good video shooter should be able to keep their entire body in a near motionless hover while completely aware of the reef and marine life around them.
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.
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, Backscatter, and Kraken Sports. The added benefit is that you can attach video lights to the handles via light/strobe arms and clamps. SeaLife makes a great Flex-Connect system that’s easy to break down for travel.
Check out my article on GoPro filters and color correction to learn when to use filters, video lights and color correction while editing footage.
Shoot me an email if you’re interested in a GoPro tray and handles or any other GoPro accessories and I’ll help you build the best kit for your dive interests.