Simple Tips On How To Take Photos Under Water

Alix Martinez is speaking at Click Away photo conference

by Alix Martinez

reading a book underwater picture by Alix Martinez

I have always been fascinated by water, ripples and reflections. Because I am a children’s photographer, I thought ‘hey, what if I mix the two together and create fine art!’ I was continually searching for new and creative ways to showcase children, especially for the walls of your home. So… a win-win!

Three years ago I played around with a Fuji underwater camera to see if I would even enjoy being underwater and shooting. Surprisingly, I found it challenging to remain underwater in addition to giving directions while coming up for air, and wow, what a work out!

hair floating in water picture by Alix Martinez

At first, I found the little camera’s focus a bit too slow, and the images were not sharp enough for the large photos I dreamed of. I did however fall in love with being in the water and photographing small subjects. Soon I decided it was time to take it to the next level. I researched the camera housings, as I needed it to be easy and secure. I was housing my Canon Mark II at the time and I was nervous. However, once the ikelite and dome for the lens arrived, and I made a test in the bathtub, I was excited and ready. Now, I just needed to find a pool and some children.

I took the very large and heavy housing and camera to a pool play-date at a friend’s home, with six children, all ready to swim and have fun. The water was cold, but the excitement warmed me up! I instructed the children to just swim around and to pretend I was not there. They were fast swimmers and with my camera in tow, keeping up with them was challenging. I made sure that my camera settings were correct and began to shoot away. After thirty seconds underwater, I would come up for air and tell them to do something underwater. Then, holding my breath, I would go back under. In no time, I was up to a minute. I am hoping for two minutes this summer!

toddler swimming photo by Alix Martinez

I prefer to shoot on manual in the water, but some people have better luck with shutter speed priority. I like to keep the camera at a very high shutter speed, and also the Al servo selected as it can be tricky focusing underwater, especially when the sun is shining for back lighting. Below is the first image I shot. I found the color to be tricky initially so I opted for black and white instead.

black and white underwater photo by Alix Marinez

I think most children are generally quite happy in the water and willing to do just about anything you ask: swim across the pool, swim down to the bottom, jump in, wear a costume, or even their clothes!

Tips for underwater photography:

  • Buy a disposable camera, iphone underwater housing or a small underwater camera to try out before you invest in an expensive underwater housing. There are a few rental places on the east and west coasts where you can find camera housings (SPLASH or IKELITE) to rent.
  • Always, ALWAYS, do a test before fully getting in the water.

hoola hooping under water picture by Alix Martinez

Gear and tools I use:

  • Canon 5d mark III
  • Canon L series 24mm lens
  • Capture One for raw processing, and Photoshop
  • Ikelite housing built specifically for the Canon Mark III
  • nose plugs
  • goggles
  • towel
  • one piece bathing suit
  • fun props

Alix Martinez and her underwater photography gear

how Alix Martinez takes photos underwater

playing tennis under water pic by Alix Martinez

Alix MartinezAlix Martinez, Connecticut
CMpro
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Alix Martinez is best known for her childrens commerical/ fashion work, and underwater photography. Alix’s work has been published in many magazines, books and featured blogs. A former digital imaging specialist for Maire Claire has helped her perfect her craft.  She loves capturing the little moments in life and printing large prints. Alix currently resides in Darien CT with her three chidden and husband and new puppy!

Alix Martinez is speaking at Click Away photo conference

7 Comments

  • Thank you so much for giving us a peek into your process, Alix! This is so exciting – and I can’t wait until my kiddos are completely comfortable in the water to give it a try!! :)

  • Kate says:

    This is great Alix! I love your photos and the pull back shots are really helpful. I am looking forward to experimenting this summer.

  • carrie says:

    YAY!!! This is awesome!!! I love your images! Thank you so much for the great interview! I can’t wait to get a waterproof case for the iPhone!!!

  • Deb says:

    Alix, your shots are so beautiful, fun and inspiring! I am afraid of water but for the love of photography I might try again. :)

  • Ophelia says:

    Your images are amazing! I love this article and it prompted me actually to buy the beach & underwater BO by Liz. I now have a case for my phone and if I like how that is, I’ll likely get myself a good p&s with underwater housing. Unfortunately, my camera model doesn’t have underwater housing available anymore :(

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