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
GoPro Tray and Handle Buyer’s Guide
These are some of my favorite tray and handle options for mounting your GoPro. Once you start using these you see a world of difference in your videos.
Scuba divers can easily clip a GoPro tray and handle system to their BCD or hold the system in-hand for the full dive.
GoPro Shorty: If you watched by video on the Best GoPro Underwater Settings, you know I only recommend a selfie stick for shooting 1st and 2nd person perspectives. The Short also serves as a tripod, making it a very versatile accessory.
Retail $39 on Amazon Prime.
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.
Retail $69 at Backscatter Photo.
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.
Retail $669 at Backscatter Photo.
Ultralight Control Systems – GoPro Mount Kit: Scuba divers will often want to mount a GoPro to the top of their housing. Above is a set of accessories that will allow you to do that.
There are a few variations with this system, however, 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