Social media has taken over many people's lives and, as a result, selfies or self portraits are part of our daily routine. Selfies are a great way to show off that new hairstyle or get public opinions on your new lipstick colour #duckface. They're also a great way to make memories and show your followers that you like to do fun stuff, like Scuba Dive !
Unfortunately, selfies are not as easy to take as they seem. First, you need to get your makeup done, then find the perfect lighting, find your good side, perfect your facial expressions and then snap between 5 and 50,000 photos until you get one that will make the cut. Nailing the perfect selfie just isn't that easy, and trying to do this underwater is even more difficult. Luckily, I've spent many dives working on my selfie and would love to share a few of my top tips to master the underwater selfie! Whether you're a scuba enthusiast or a free dive purist, read on and take your underwater selfie game to the next level !
Light is your friend
Much like on land, the key to a good selfie is lighting. Whether that be cool shadows, bright sunlight or artificial lighting, it's important that your selfie lighting is well thought out. If you are an advanced selfie taker, you can shoot with the sun behind you and a high aperture. This can create stunning sunburst results, however, if you're just a beginner, its best to use natural light to your advantage. Most selfies are best taken in the top few meters where there is the most amount of light available. The key to a good selfie is to ensure the subject and foreground is bright, vivid and in focus.
Lose the bubbles
You might be a bubble blower, but lose the bubbles. Bubbles are distracting. They cover eyes and generally ruin your shot. Take your time and “time” your selfie with your breaths. Make sure all the bubbles are out of your face before taking the snap. It's also important to make sure there's no hoses, regs or snorkels hanging down, taking away from the main focus, your beautiful face.
Focus on the subject
The most important part of the selfie is you, and this is usually the hardest part to get right. Hair over your face, bubbles in your eyes, a fogged up mask, closed eyes and the look of fear are all things that will ruin your selfie. Be prepared for many failed attempts, should you look at the camera or look away? Do you want to look happy or serious? Of course, an easy option, which also looks cool, would be to take your eyes out of the picture and wear the Mares X-Vision tinted mask.
Once you have figured out your eyes and facial expression, you will then need to make sure your composition is correct, that you are actually in focus, and your exposure is on point. Wheww, that's a lot to work out !
Under the water we are pretty lucky when it comes to the background: a clear blue or even green ocean can look pretty cool on its own, especially if there's a reflection on the surface or some sparkling sun rays. Unfortunately, for some divers, clear water and sunny skies are not always the case. Instead, you'll need to look for a something to take your selfie against: wrecks, rocks, walls, crevasses and colorful reefs are all selfie-worthy backdrops.
Just keep shooting
As selfie queen Kylie Jenner says, "Take a lot of selfies”. Shoot plenty throughout your dive. If I find a nice selfie location e.g. a beautiful sponge wall etc., I'll shoot and review them until I am happy. There's no point taking one shot, moving on, and then getting home and thinking damn, that was a cool spot, shame it's out of focus and my eyes are closed. We are lucky to live in a digital age, so just keep shooting, change the angle, change your lighting, when it comes to selfies the more the better.
Perfect your dive skills
Get your dive skills up to scratch. Before you even think about taking a selfie, it's crucial to ensure your buoyancy is absolutely perfect. If it's not quite there, take a Perfect Buoyancy course and you'll be up to speed in no time. This will help you with your photo taking and also eliminates the chance of damage to the marine environment.
If you're new to photography, it's also a good idea to take an Underwater Photography course before you take your camera in to the water. (A quick note on safety, taking selfies is tiring work, always keep an eye on your gas levels, depth and bottom time - no selfie is worth risking your life for!)
Work those angles
Sometimes straight on selfies come out great, other times they don't. Working your angles, positioning your camera slightly down or up can really improve your selfie composition.
Photo bombers are someone or something that is lurking in the background of your selfie. On land this isn't cool, but underwater it's a different story! Marine critters make great selfie companions, but use your common sense. I wouldn't recommend taking a selfie with a great white, but having a dolphin or a fish in the background can look pretty awesome. If you are planning to take a critter selfie, it's good to have someone watching your back. Always put the animal's welfare first, you don't want to stress it out by chasing it, touching it or getting too close, and never put yourself in danger - just use good dive etiquette really!
Practice makes perfect
As mentioned earlier, taking selfies underwater isn't easy. A lot of techniques are coming into play: lighting, buoyancy, angles and of course not looking like you have just seen a Megalodon. Shoot selfies whenever you get the chance. It's best on a fun dive where there's low stress and plenty of time to experiment. At the end of a dive and during a safety stop is an ideal time to snap a few selfies. On the other hand, it's probably not a good idea to be taking selfies during a course or while on a deep technical dive when you really should be concentrating!
Grab a friend
Underwater selfies are always better with friends. Grab a buddy (preferably one with long arms), get your buoyancy perfect and shoot away. The hardest part of taking selfies with a friend is getting your timing right, remember, no bubbles! To be successful, you will both need to be looking at the camera at the right time and not drifting away, not an easy task, but its all part of the selfie fun!
So, there you have it, my top ten tips to improve your selfie game. The most important thing to remember when taking an underwater selfie is to have fun, get creative and you'll make memories that will last a lifetime!
All Images and text by Dan Westerkamp.
Want to join me on the adventure of a lifetime? I specialize in personalized underwater photography expeditions throughout the South Pacific. Join me in search of Sharks, Humpback whales, breathtaking dive sites and so much more.