GoPros are the ultimate camera for active adventurers that want to capture memories underwater, on top of mountains, and everything in between. Although GoPro cameras are known for being quite indestructible, there are plenty of factors that could ruin your shot. You’ve seen the shaky video content that was poorly shot. This is often due to lack of knowledge when it comes to filters, resolution, and stabilization.

To get great underwater photos and videos with your GoPro, focus on the following:

  • Setting Up Your GoPro 
  • How to Film Underwater
    • Stabilization – Your Largest Obstacle 
    • Where to Put a GoPro When Diving? 
    • Resolution
    • Frames Per Second
    • Photography Tips
  • Which GoPro Models Are Best for Scuba Diving?
  • How Deep Can You Dive with a GoPro? 
  • And much more.

Photography is a complex subject that people can spend years learning. On the other hand, diving is considered a ‘high-risk activity’ that should not be attempted unless you are certified. Combining these two intricate passions will take a bit more forethought than just showing up. Use this guide to understand the basics of filming underwater, techniques used by the pros to get the best shots, and how to make memories that you’ll cherish for a lifetime! 

How to Scuba with a GoPro: Best tips

The GoPro is a budget-friendly action camera that allows people to shoot all over the world in rugged outdoor activities and sports. Consistently thought of as the standard in action-cameras, this camera is constantly used by professional and recreational divers alike. 

A few selling points of the GoPro series for those that want to film underwater are that GoPros are:

  • Attachable/Clampable to your body or an object
  • Compact
  • Light-weight
  • Easy-to-use
  • Waterproof
  • High resolution photo and video

GoPro action cameras have become an amazing tool for photographers and adventurers alike. Each generation sees incremental improvements. You can buy pretty much any version from the Hero 8 to the latest, and you will get good features and good results.

If you want to take great action videos but don’t want to budget for a GoPro, see our review of the best budget underwater cameras.

Setting Up Your GoPro for Scuba

Now – Let’s skip forward and assume you’re well-studied in the art of diving. Since this guide is about GoPro and filming, that will be our focus until some final tips for diving safety while filming.


  • Charge the battery by inserting a battery or plugging in the USB with a USB-C cable that should come included.
  • Charge between every dive to ensure you have enough power to film a complete piece. You can also purchase back-up batteries for your models and keep them charged above the surface (re-inserting fresh batteries as needed on filming days).
  • Turn the setting and screen brightness:
    • From ‘Auto’ to ‘Never’
    • Set the screensaver to, ‘Never’ 

Both of these will increase your battery life by reducing the LCD screen time, and also making it easier to see underwater. Without changing the screensaver, you could have a black screen in 30-seconds and lose sight of your subject-matter.

Memory Card

Select a memory card that is compatible with your favorite Go Pro. Any videographer will recommend purchasing a memory card with at least 128 gb, but for very long films at high resolutions, you should aim for closer to 256 gb or higher. Card speeds are also important. You want fast write speeds to capture in 4K or when using slow motion or higher frame rates.

Download the Go Pro App

The GoPro App allows you to edit the film you’ve shot, backing your footage up to an external source.

Final Steps Before Diving

  • Clean your lenses
  • Test all equipment to ensure they are correctly working and there is enough battery to film
  • Practice carrying all equipment along with the Go Pro in a pool before open-diving
  • Before you lower yourself into the water with a camera, you should have some idea of what you plan to capture on film.

Have a game plan of sorts. Knowing this will assist you in preparing correctly with all necessary film, oxygen, and other essential equipment. 

How to Film Underwater with a GoPro

You cannot expect to show up and immediately take high-quality shots. Learn from rookie mistakes and follow these photography instructions for your GoPro as well as adaptions to improve the clarity of your underwater shots.

Filming and Stabilization – Your Largest Obstacle 

Stabilizing your shot is the most difficult competent of filming underwater. You’re not only diving and filming simultaneously, but you are up against buoyancy and water pressure that wants to inch your body towards the surface at every inhaled breath.

The reason that stabilization will be so difficult is that you are:

  • Using more force underwater to propel yourself forward than you would usually be using above the surface. This causes a more side-to-side action. 
  • Battling buoyancy and oxygen in your breath which rises you to the surface slightly
  • Currents and tides that also combat your stability while attempting to swim and film

So there is more against you than meets the eye. It can make for a terrible shot so to stabilize your shot underwater; you will need to maintain a neutral buoyancy.

Why Shallow Waters are Optimal

Another major factor that will influence your shot is lighting.

Just as with any form of photography, lighting is everything. While underwater, you will have less light, and it will be refracted through water molecules that bend light. 

The deeper you go, the less lighting you will have; therefore the darker your images will be.

The best lighting for a GoPro will be filmed:

  • In clearer waters if possible
  • On sunny days (as cloudy ones will make for dark shots that could require back-up lighting attachments) 
  • At any depth above 5 meters (about 15-33 feet) is suited to most Go Pro models 

These are the ideal conditions for top-quality photographs with vibrant color and accurate tones that will be easily edited. Anything deeper than this with bad lighting will make editing quite tricky as the exposure to contract balance will never quite align. 

Experiment with Your Settings

There are countless settings to experiment with on your Go Pro (as well as your later involvement of collaborative editing software). We will cover these setting tips throughout this article, but a few basics to keep in mind are:

  • During Deep-Dives – When filming shipwrecks or dives that are very deep, you will have less light available. On these occasions, you should lower the ‘Number of Frames Per Second,‘ or shutter speed because this will increase the amount of exposure (or light) in the shot.
  • During Shallow Dives – If there is plenty of light and sunshine seeping through beneath the surface, you are likely in a shallow spot. This is where many coral fish and marine life are quickly moving, which means that you can use a higher ‘Number of Frames Per Second,’ which will increase the detail captured with such fast-moving creatures.  (Somewhere between 60 to 120 FPS)
  • Turn audio off as there shouldn’t be any sound worth hearing underwater. There could be bubble and gurgle noises, but you will probably cover the sound with music anyways. 

Where to Put a GoPro When Diving? 

One of the hardest steps while filming is to know where to put your GoPro. 

Luckily for you as a diver, you should not be using your hands too extensively since divers use their feet to paddle forward. While diving, your hands are relaxed your sides, which frees them up for filming. With free hands, you will have more options than many action-sports that require all four limbs.

A few of your clamping options are to attach it to:

  • Your Body – As linked above, there are many attachments for:
    • Helmets
    • Wrists
    • Chest 
    • And other unique angles to shoot from
  • Dead Rock – Always a dead rock or surface that does not show signs of marine life living inside. Many divers will clamp the GoPro to a lower position and shoot upwards, capturing the beautiful sunlight dancing on the water’s surface. 
  • The Ocean Bed – Similarly to the dead rock option, you can simply set it on the ocean’s ground or direct sand. Shooting upwards will create the best shot, which leads us into – 

Why Angles Matter

You don’t want to aim your shot downwards. This causes your shot to look like muddy flat ground and blue grit. Shooting directly to the ground will appear (on film) like:

  • Muddy ground
  • Green blobs
  • Flat blueish earth that is unclear

By filming upwards from the ground and facing your lenses towards the surface – You will create:

  • Dimension
  • Color
  • Light
  • Clarity
  • And much more interesting angles to look at

The lower you can get the camera – The more dimensional, colorful, and large the coral will look. 

Shooting with angles is a great technique to utilize primarily if diving alone. You won’t have anyone to film for you, so it’s nice to include yourself in your shots. Doing so adds a human-element that can bring your film to life and cause others to relate to these adventures. 

 Look up photography of underwater shots and you will notice they are often shot:

  • Out in front of the diver
  • Slightly angled underneath the diver pointing upwards
  • At eye-level with the fish and coral reefs
  • Lower than their subject
  • Fully placed on the ocean’s floor 

You can make a truly beautiful film shot of dancing sun rays as you swim across a school of fish. Compare this to a flat earth picture of blobby rocks that are unable to be depicted.


Realize that while filming underwater, lighting is necessary because without it you will have images that are:

  • Fuzzy
  • Monochromatic
  • Dull
  • Unclear

Resolution While Filming Underwater

Pretty much everyone films in 4K now. If you need to save storage space, you can select a lower resolution. Don’t go below 1080p unless absolutely necessary. For most situations 4K is fine. For photos, the latest GoPro shoots in 24.7MP for photos and 5.3k videos.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

This feature was introduced on GoPro cameras a few years ago. As in TV, it provides for deeper dark colors and brighter brights.

How to Set the Frames Per Second

Related to the resolution, you should know a few factors regarding the FPS, including:

  • The slower you can make your shot, the more detail your camera will be able to process.
  • The more frame you add (the slower you shoot it), the larger the resolution will be.
  • 60 FPS is an excellent range for clear images.
  • Experiment with higher FPS, such as popular underwater settings for slow-motion, such as:
    • 120
    • 240
    • And up
  • Slow-motion shots are larger files with more detail (compared to faster shots that don’t have time to collect as much data). This will fill up your memory cards very quickly so have back-up memory cards if you plan to shoot many slow-motion videos at higher FPSs.

Telling a Story Through Your Shots

Many suggest that while shooting your underwater film, attempt to tell a story. This will engage the viewers even more while taking them through the series of your adventures. 

Ideas to contribute to an overall story-arch are:

  • Depict everyone excited to go out to sea, perhaps a few shots of everyone practicing on land or in a pool first
  • Shots of everyone getting dressed in their gear
  • Fun music along with the boat ride out there (softer music once you go underneath the water’s surface)
  • Show the descent and the shallow waters
  • Following the tour group through to deeper waters
  • Weaving through schools of fish 
  • Getting close-ups on marine life, coral, flora, or whatever your subject matter is
  • Shots at different angles, most pointing upwards towards the sun 

Making it a chronological narrative for you to watch back later and relive the day.

Go Pro Photography Tips

A few tips used by professional photographers on land and underwater alike include:

  • Utilize Go Pro’s Wide-Angle – Since the Go Pro will offer a wider shot, this will cause objects to appear further back than they naturally are. Due to this, you will have to get even closer to your subject and really hone-in on what you’re shooting. 
  • Stay Safe – Don’t get so close that you injure yourself on sharp coral or tampering with a wildlife creature’s habitat. Many use the rule of being able to clearly see the animal’s eyes as an indication that they are close enough. 
  • Experiment with Dome Shots – By seeking a dome port that attaches to your Go Pro model. This will cause a fish-eye effect.
  • Experiment with Orientation – Shots can be made either:
    • Landscape – This is like a landscape painting, shorter on the sides and long top and bottom frames. For Landscape Orientation especially, your subject must be closer to the camera and the forefront of the shot to be easily depicted.
    • Portrait – This is like a sheet of paper, wider on the sides with shorter top and bottom frames. 

In Conclusion

GoPro offers incredible underwater cameras that can offer beautiful results. Experiment with different filters and settings to find the effect you’re looking for. Be sure to always read the description and confirm that the GoPro is waterproof.