Like many adventure activities, snorkeling is an activity that is meant to be shared. However, while snorkeling is always best shared with a partner for both safety and fun, through the use of underwater cameras you can take the adventure back home with you.
Picking out a camera for underwater use is a relatively simple process once you decide on what you want and know what to look for. However, taking pictures underwater and even just swimming with a camera are both different kinds of beasts. If you are planning your next snorkel trip and are already planning to take a piece of it back with you via pictures or video, keep in mind these tips for successful snorkeling with a camera.
Water-Resistant Versus Waterproof Cameras
When choosing a camera to take snorkeling, you need to consider how good a picture or video it will take, but oh-so-more-important is the waterproofing. Some brands tend to use “water resistant” and “waterproof” interchangeably. However, they mean very different things.
Water resistance means that your camera won’t be ruined immediately if it is splashed or caught in a surprise rain storm. However, by no means should you ever submerge a water resistant camera. Waterproof cameras, on the other hand, are made for snorkeling. However, they aren’t perfect either. You can submerge them completely and they will be fine, but only in depths of around 30 feet.
Waterproof cameras will satisfy your picture and video-taking needs for snorkeling perfectly. However, if you ever want to take up scuba diving, be aware that waterproof cameras will not survive the added pressure of being deeper than 30 feet. For diving deeper, you will want to invest in dedicated housing for your camera.
Handheld or Mask Attached?
You might have bought a mask awhile back that actually comes with the capability to mount a camera. Sometimes it is a GoPro-specific mount, but many underwater cameras, especially those with housing, can fit those mounts as well. The question is, do you want a mounted camera or a handheld one?
Each has their own benefits, but when it comes to mounted cameras, usually they are only good for video. Since they are mounted on the top of your mask, you can’t really aim them or reliably get to the button to take pictures. So mounting a non-video camera on your mask? Well, that is pretty much worthless. However, as long as your mask keeps the camera in the water while snorkeling (it is harder with some models than others), you should capture some excellent memories.
With handheld cameras they also have some problems, like swimming with them. If you are carrying it around all the time, it is likely you will drop it at some point. However, with can easily be overcome with a neck or wrist strap. Most handheld waterproof cameras come with one or the other, but they are pretty easy to find sold separately as well.
How to Snorkel With a Camera
Once you have picked out a good camera to suit your needs, snorkeling with a camera can be pretty intuitive once you get used to it. However, if you want a successful trip and also want to take good pictures and videos while underwater, keep these tips in mind.
- First Time Snorkeling? – Are you trying to take pictures on your very first ever snorkeling trip? Are you still getting the feel of snorkeling down? It is probably best to leave the camera on shore until you have the basics of snorkeling down and you are comfortable in the water. Don’t try to learn so many new things at once, it limits the enjoyment of all of them.
- Be Picky – Your first time with a camera in the water is going to be a lot of fun. However, you need to remember that it isn’t your job to snap shots of every square inch of the reef. You need to be a little picky with your shots because it is the rule of the universe that the best picture moments come right as your memory card is full.
- Don’t Chase the Fish – You want pictures of some of the cool fish down under the sea, we know. However, don’t go chasing fish around to get the perfect picture. Not only will it wear your out quickly, but it will stress out the fish too. You’re a visitor, so be happy for the fish shots that you can take and don’t go chasing the sea life.
- Get in Close – As you are taking pictures through a liquid, you actually need to get in very close to an object to take a good picture. The further you are away from your subject, the more blue that subject will look. In shallower reefs, this isn’t a particularly big deal since the water is so clear. However, for other areas a good distance is about an arm’s length away for nice, clear pictures.
- Know Your Water Conditions – Do you have a bit of chop on the water? It might be best to skip the snorkeling trip. Not only can certain rough water conditions be dangerous to snorkelers, but the make for poor snorkeling anyway. If there are strong current or overhead winds are blowing up waves, that stirs up the sand and other particles in the water making for poor visibility and even worse underwater photography.
- Don’t Expect Perfection – There are professional underwater photographers that still have a lot to learn about taking the perfect picture underwater. The difficulty of getting good pictures underwater is the reason underwater photography classes exist. You don‘t need to take a class, but if you want to enhance your skills there are a lot of different things you can learn about in order to take a good picture underwater online for free.
- Don’t Forget to Enjoy Yourself – Don’t spend your entire snorkeling trip behind a camera looking for the perfect picture. You are there to have fun, after all. If you see a good potential photo op, get the camera ready, by all means, but don’t live behind it. You’ll miss the big picture.