How to capture stunning underwater images on your GoPro

Because an underwater camera should not cost more than your car.

03 February 2020

By Danel Wentzel

Have you ever heard the saying, "A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses"? Well I'm here to tell you that this statement is the furthest from the truth.

Underwater photography goes above and beyond just the scope of your camera. To prove it all the images displayed in this blog have been captured using a GoPro Hero 7.

Jumping from dive boats. Diving with whalesharks. Documenting a scuba trip. With outstanding video and image quality all in a BCD-pocket-sized package, the GoPro action camera might be the only underwater camera you will ever need!

Although they are ready to be used underwater as soon as you get it out of the box, they aren't designed for deeper waters such as when you're scuba diving. I have put together a few tips and tricks on shooting techniques and accessories to consider, in order to make the most of your GoPro camera.

Never heard of a GoPro?

GoPro is to action camera as kleenex is to tissue. This action camera was originally designed by Nick Woodman, the current CEO, as a means of capturing images of himself surfing. While these cameras are often still used for this purpouse, the company has come a long way since the release of their first camera 19 years ago, and GoPros are now used by all manner of extreme athletes, adventurers and casual shooters.

  1. Know your subject & the minimum focus distance

GoPro's are designed to have a large Field of View (FOV) for wide angle footage. This means they are great for capturing larger subjects, a bit further away. The minimum focus disctance (how far you can be from your subject while being in focus) is 30cm (12 inches). For this reason they are perfect for capturing larger marine life like dolphins, whales, sea turtles or that selfie of you between that school of fish! However, they are not great for those macro shots of nudibranch, mantis shrimp or corals. So bear this in mind next time you are shooting your subject. You don't want to be too close so you lose focuse, but also not too far that your subject appears barely visible.

2. Keep it steady by practicing good bouyancy

Mastering your buoyancy and learning to move slowly and methodically are key elements for good underwater footage. Keeping your hand steady will help you capture clean video and crisp footage. Mastering good buoancy doesn't happen over night. You need to log some bottom time first and get comfortable in the water, before taking down any camera gear to play around with. Don't feel discoraged if you don't master your buoancy straight away. Mastery takes time! You can even opt to try the PADI Peak Preformance Buyancy Speciality if you need some extra help.

The biggest tip on keeping your camera steady is just by moving slowly - big jurky movements will cause shake and might scare your subject away. Newer GoPro models such as the Hero 7 and up come equiped with amazing built-in stabalisation, which will help compensate for any excessive camera movements.

3. Just add light

As we all know, light attenuates with depth. This means the deeper we dive, the less natural light becomes available to us. As photographers, light is a crucial tool that can enhance the sharpness of our images and bring back warm colours which are lost at depth. By adding a simple torch with a wide angle beam (also known as flood-lights or video lights) you can expand your shots making your subjects pop and seperate the background from the foreground.

Chances are when you are just starting out shooting with a GoPro that you most likely won't use a torch. This is where we use natural light to our advantage. Staying shallow isn't always possible when diving, so try to keep the sun behind you as much as possible so your subject is lit, while avoiding capturing dull silhouetted images.

4. Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise

Adding accessories can not only up your image quality, but can also help protect your camera as well as expand the range of shots you can capture. Here is a short list of common add-ons.

Underwater housing.

Your GoPro is waterproof out of the box, but majority of models are only waterproof up to 10 meters. Don't be fooled into thinking you can take your brand new GoPro diving without a housing. Always read the box and manual first. By purchasing a housing you can take your camera on those deeper dives, plus it provides extra protection against any falls or knocks on the boat en route to your dive destination.

Handles & Floaties.

Handles are extremely useful for stabalising your underwater videos. Always make sure to check if the handle is good to take underwater. Floaties are a useful safety tool. You never know you might accidentally drop your GoPro getting back onboard the boat, and a floaty might just end up safing your camera.


The GDome is a curved port that attaches to your lens which allows you to capture great split-shot images. This aids in being creative and creating content that tell a story.

5. Spend some time with post-editing

Editing clips together or adjusting the colours of your images can make your footage more engaging.

GoPro has their own Quick App, which allows for instant viewing, sharing and cutting together of little clips. Mobile apps like Dive+ are useful if you are new to editing and does all the colour-corrections for you. If you want to take a bit more control of your editing my all time favourite software is Adobe lightroom! You can click here for a short article on how to edit GoPro photos using Lightroom.

Great, now you are all set to capture those special underwater moments! But before you dive in, always keep in mind that your safety is the most important thing. Don't take your GoPro with you on a dive if your buoyancy isn't up to scratch just yet or if the visability is bad and you might risk losing your buddies whilst getting distracted trying to take a photo of any octopus on a piece of kelp.

In a Seashell:

  • Underwater photography goes above and beyond just the scope of your camera.

  • You can still capture great images and videos using a simple action camera, such as a GoPro.

  • Know your subject and don't go closer than the 30cm focus distance of your camera to avoid out of focus images.

  • Avoid blurry images by keeping your hands steady.

  • Add light by using a torch or shoot with the sun behind you so your subject is lit.

  • Accessories like housings, grips and a GDome can greatly improve your image quality while protecting your camera.

  • Spend time editing your photos and videos to make them more appealing to your viewers.