Guide to filming underwater macro video

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Filming underwater macro video is a great way to showcase the behaviour and beauty of the sea’s smaller creatures. Underwater videographers often visit reefs, underwater caves or submerged boulders for this reason. With macro footage, they capture the details of the most vibrant marine life up close. Here is a detailed guide to filming macro underwater video. These tips will enable you to perfect this specific skill in underwater video.

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1. Use a tripod

Keeping your footage is even more important now that you’re filming in macro. The reasons for this is that every movement you make will be magnified in macro. Therefore, you need to make sure that your buoyancy is neutral and you’re keeping as still as you can. It helps to film in quieter locations with fewer currents and surge levels. When you can, make sure you always have a tripod with you when filming close-up footage of marine life. A tripod will guarantee you the steadiest macro footage.

A tripod will also allow you to take footage of a subject that doesn’t show itself easily. If you’re trying to film something shy, like an eel, you could set up the tripod and camera in the right spot and swim away. The animals will then be more likely to emerge when there is no moving diver around.

2. Use lights

Extra lighting will give your footage better colour quality and make it more vibrant. Use video lights (not strobes) to illuminate your macro subject. Make sure the lighting is kept consistent throughout the clip. It’s better to use two lights instead of one, so that the subject is lit up from all sides. 

3. Get the settings right

It’s always best to film in Manual when shooting macro. Make sure you know how each camera setting works, and how to adjust them according to the scene. If you’re using strong lights, for instance, you can close your camera’s aperture a little to increase the depth of field. Similarly, you need to adjust your ISO and shutter speed according to the subject and its surroundings. 

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4. Get close to your subject

This is a no-brainer, as you’ll be taking close-up footage. Still, be sure that you are as physically close to the subject as you can get to get the best quality footage. If you zoom in too much, you’ll have to be extra careful not to make any movements that will make your video shaky. Also, when you can, get as low on the ground as possible when filming macro underwater video of a creature on the sand. The blue water in the background gives the photo more dimension than a sandy backdrop when filming from above. 

5. Finetune your focus

When filming underwater macro video with a DSLR, it is sometimes difficult to focus the video. Use the manual focus on your camera along with the magnifying button. With this, you’ll ensure the focus is always in the right place. The magnifying button doesn’t zoom the footage in. It magnifies the image so that you can focus on a small, particular point in the subject, like an eye or a fin. In order to keep your focus for longer, it’s also best to remain the same distance from the subject you’re filming. 

These are some of the most important tips for filming macro underwater video. If you like this post, you can check out our general tips for taking underwater video for some more pointers. The life of an underwater videographer is an exciting and rewarding one. So, be sure to keep developing your skills and to gain practical experience. If you’re looking to specialise in this field of filmmaking, take a look at our new Underwater Videography course.

Rouxne van der Westhuizen profile

Blogger Profile - Rouxne van der Westhuizen

Rouxne has an Honours degree in journalism and media studies. She is the course director for the Travel and Environmental Journalism program and specialises in wildlife conservation writing, travel journalism and blogging.

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