Summer is in full swing, and while the weather in England may not be the most pool-lounging inspiring, some of you may be lucky enough to have departed for warmer climes and for the rest of us, well, there is always hope.

With that in mind, we’d like to give you a few tips for taking photos of your photos of your family having fun in the pool. But first things first:

The gear

You essentially have 3 choices

1. Dedicated underwater cameras and action cameras:

There are both high end and budget choices for you to choose from . If you shudder at the thought of getting your ‘proper’ camera anywhere near the water, you may want to invest in a compact, waterproof by-design camera. This is something you might want to consider especially if you have kids old enough to want to take part in the photo taking as many waterproof camera models are also drop/smash proof, small and simple enough to be handled by the kids and still reasonably priced.

One example of this is Nikon W100 which is actually designed for children with a simple, limited menu, fun filtres, tougher-than-it-looks exterior and a nice way to introduce your kids into photography. It also has wifi connectivity so the photos can go straight from the camera onto your mobile or tablet.

Does it work in the water? My 8 year old helped us test it and yes, it does. It performs in the water better up close than at a distance, the sharpness could be a bit better and under low light the images can get a little grainy but is it’s very easy to use both under and above the water and she enjoys playing with it. Plus with it being shutter proof, there is no stress she’ll drop it and break it. Here are a couple of examples we captured with it.

Another couple of options in the same category  –  Fujifilm FinePix XP120  or Olympus Stylus Tough TG-870 Waterproof Camera. Both designed for more involved photographers, with slightly more extended menus and wifi built in, but still firmly in the compact group.
Finally, there are action cameras like goPro, with ultra wide angle lenses, set up for action and adventure and which frequently come already with waterproof casings. These are great for video, easy to mount wherever, controllable from a mobile, but the ultra wide lens provides limited application to your daily photography in other walks of life. Having said that, it produced lovely sharp images and videos and with only 3 buttons, is really straightforward to use. I liked the crispness of the images produced and really enjoyed the wide angle view. It did really well with video as well.

2. Waterproof camera cases

For the photographer who wants to be able to shoot in full manual and be in complete control of their underwater camera, what you want instead is a waterproof case which will go over your camera. Those fall into 2 categories:

– Brand/ model specific, hard plastic and glass cases ( usually a bit more pricy )
– soft bag-like covers like a Dicapac – much cheaper but still perform very well ( a few other similar brands are available – I just happen to have this one).
Unless you KNOW you will be doing a lot of underwater photography, other than just being in the pool for a week with your kids, I’d forget the hard shell case and just invest in a Dicapac. It’s essentially a soft plastic bag with a stiffer element for the lens with a glass cover which unscrews fully, and with little waterproof ‘holes’ which allow you to still manipulate your camera settings underwater. It takes a little while to get used to, but once you’re there, it performs great. I liked the quality of those photos the best – there was no distortion and I felt in full control of my camera settings and outcomes. The downside – if you’re not careful about getting your camera meticulously dry, the bag can fog up inside. It can also be a bit fiddly to operate your camera underwater. Oh and since you trap air in with the camera inside, it will try to float up.

3. Waterproof your mobile phone

Your final option for taking underwater photos is your humble mobile with a dedicated waterproof case. My iphone (and its predecessor) have done really well under water, and it has the added benefit of being close to you more often than not. Plus there is the peace of mind of what happens if you accidentally drop it in the pool…
One I’ve tested cost only around £12 and it pretty much stays on my camera all the time while we’re anywhere near water. While there are soft plastic, universal cases available for even less than that, I’d opt for a casing which is designed specifically for your camera, as the element which goes over your lens is less likely to fog up and distort the image.

Shooting in water – the considerations

SAFETY FIRST :  I’m making an assumption here that if you ‘re shooting under water , you’re a confident swimmer and so are your models, but I make a point of always making sure there is another adult in the pool with the kids to help if anyone gets into any difficulty.

The technical considerations for shooting under water could be summed up in the following points:

The light – it travels less far under water so if you’re better off shooting closer to the surface rather than diving deep. Same goes for getting physically closer to your subject – the further away from you they are, the darker and less sharp they are likely to be in the photo as your camera will struggle with light.

Time of the day and how sunny / cloudy it is matters – full sun and moving water will give you light ripple effect. If you’re after more even light photographs, go for a covered / shaded pool or overcast weather. Don’t forgeth about light diection under water either – it may be a bit more distorted than on dry land, but if you shoot against the light, you may find the colours duller, the grain worse and the overall clarity poorer.

The colours will look different – if you have a dedicated underwater mode on your camera, it may be a good to deploy it for the sake of your photo colours – your reds, yellows and oranges look very different underwater which has a direct impact in what your skin tones will look like. Dedicated underwater camera modes  are often designed to protect those ( though this may differ from camera to camera)

Short focal lengths ( = no zoom) / wide angle lenses do better underwater  – you get a wider field of view, you need to be at a shorter distance to your subjects to get them whole in the frame. Zoom lenses which require you to be quite a distance from your subject, plainly won’t work.

Clarity of water counts – you’ll get clearer, crisper photos from a pool that you will from the sea.

Exposure – it’s OK to just use auto or a deidacted underwater preset – you may not get much by way of options with the compacts anyway. But if you’re shooting in manual, make sure you open you aperture as wide as you can to let as much light as possible in.

Now that you’re ready – Go crazy!

Document the fun! underwater chases, daring cannonball jumps and elegant dives – using a wide angle will help you get all the action in the frame. Burst / drive / continuous shooting mode helps too!

Look up as well as down – when we shoot underwater, the temptation is to point the camera down, into the depths – which is all fine and good, but don’t forget to look up as well – some of the best, more creative photos can come from that way!

Bubbles are your friends – bubbles introduce a notion of action, speed, rush and fun – don’t be afraid to use them in your photos!

Consider the surface of the water  as soon from below – this one is a little connected to the ‘look up’ tip – the surface of water is reflective, like a shiny skin on the body of water and introduces a variety to the texture of the water which can really add an extra dimension to your image.

Don’t be afraid of a little distortion. That’s what water does to light after all – might as well use it creatively!

Part under part over – those are quite fun to take ( though admittedly can take a few trials to get right – water is not quite a steady surface as you might hope) – I found those were easiest to take with my SLR in the Dicopac because of the larger lens opening.

You don’t always need a face.

I hope this helps you keep your camera safe around water and capture unforgettable moments with your family having fun in the pool.  Don’t hesitate to share your images with us on Facebook!

Ready, Go! SPLASH!

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