How to Snorkel with a GoPro

If you’re looking to start capturing your snorkel adventures, you might be wondering how far the GoPro will take you. You’re also probably wondering how to get the best photos and videos to show your friends and family. Fortunately, there are many ways to optimize how you capture your underwater excursions with the GoPro. 

Can you snorkel with a GoPro? Yes, you can snorkel with a GoPro, but only the GoPro Hero5, Hero6, Hero7, and Hero8 are waterproof without casing. For earlier models, you would need to get waterproof housing.

However, not all GoPros are ideal for snorkeling. Before choosing a GoPro, consider the pros and cons of using a GoPro in general during snorkeling. Before deciding which GoPro to choose, you are going to want to know how to get the best photography and video footage possible.

I Love the GoPro: How Do I Best Snorkel with One?

While the GoPro is a great camera action on its own, and specifically, the GoPro Hero 7 Black and the GoPro Hero 8 Black on Amazon, there are specific ways in which you can improve the quality of your video/photos. Below are the ways to best snorkel with a GoPro.

The Basics

If you’ve never used a GoPro before, the basics will depend on which GoPro you have. To turn on the GoPro, press the “mode” button, which will either be on the front or the side of the GoPro. To record either photos or videos, click the button on the top of the GoPro. Depending on which model you have, this may or may not have a red circle in the middle of the button. 

To turn off video filming, click the “record” button again.  

Whether you want to take a photo or video will depend on what mode you are in. For older models, you can change the mode by either clicking the “mode” button until you are in camera mode or video mode (depending on which one you want). 

For newer models, you can change the mode by using the touchscreen and swiping right or left. You will know what mode it is in because it will either say “Video” or “Photo” with a picture of a camcorder or a camera. 

Consider Getting Housing

Now that you know the basics, consider getting waterproof housing to encase your GoPro, even if your GoPro is waterproof without it. For those that aren’t waterproof, the encasing will prevent damage while snorkeling. However, even if you get the GoPro Hero 7 or 8 Black, a housing will still enhance your snorkeling experience.

The housing gives you bigger buttons for more comfortable underwater use. You can also use it for filter mounting options that will help improve underwater colors. This will be covered more below. Plus, if you want to mount your GoPro at all (and you’ll likely want to while snorkeling), you are going to need housing to do so. 

Diver with a cumbersome ull camera and lighting that can be replaced by snorkeling with a GoPro camera
Snorkeling with a GoPro gets you great footage without a huge camera setup

Check the Seals

Checking the seals is extremely important for the GoPro models that are waterproof without a housing. If you do not do this, any open seals will damage your camera.

There are two seals to check. 

First, make sure to check the seal on the door of your camera. This seal keeps water out of the USB & HDMI ports. This one is probably the most likely to be problematic because when charging it, you have to open the door, and sometimes it can pop off. Always make sure after you finish charging your GoPro that the door is still on there and that you close it immediately. This way, you don’t have to worry about having to replace it unnecessarily. 

Plus, without it, your GoPro is no longer waterproof. 

The second seal to check is the one to the battery and SD compartment. Make sure it is closed tightly and doesn’t have any tears. 

Lastly, make sure the lens cover is securely on the GoPro.

Lock the Orientation

When you are swimming with a GoPro, you may start shifting the orientation of the camera. It isn’t going to remain horizontal or vertical. The direction of the shot could shift to vertical while you’re trying to shoot horizontally if the automatic rotation is enabled. 

While you’re taking videos, this can be a bothersome inconvenience if the orientation starts changing from horizontal to vertical mid-way through. Lock the orientation to keep the quality of the video and avoid the video-editing hassle. 

Determine Your Underwater Settings

To get the best photo/video quality with the GoPro, adjusting the settings matter. Determine what settings you want and set them up on the GoPro. How you adjust them will depend on which GoPro you have. 

In terms of video, if you have a computer that can cope with the data of a 2.7K or 4K video, it is worth shooting in this setting. These two settings give a higher resolution than the standard configuration, but they do require a more powerful computer and can be more challenging to edit. If you plan to share your videos on YouTube, though, 4K video is a great option. 

For sharing on social media platforms, the default setting of 1080p (Full HD) still has excellent resolution and is preferable since most social media platforms don’t support 4K video. 

To further enhance your videos, many would agree that the best frames per second to use would be 60 frames per second with a wide field of view. Also, use a 16:9 aspect ratio to get the benefits of the HyperSmooth image stabilization. 

For the best underwater images, shooting in burst mode will give you 30 photos in one second instead of just one. This is useful for capturing moving fish. You’ll also have more photos to choose from this way. 

Set Up Your Shooting Options Ahead of Time

Make sure you set up the shooting options ahead of time because the GoPro touch screen doesn’t work underwater. Even when you try to use the touchscreen out of the water, once it is wet, it doesn’t function as well. 

If you set up the shooting options ahead of time and lock the screen, you won’t have to worry about not being able to change settings or fidgeting with the touchscreen while you are out in the water.

Additionally, if you are in ocean water with a lot of waves, it can be dangerous to be playing around with the settings when you are trying to stay afloat. Set them before getting into the water and lock your screen. 

Settings for snorkeling with your GoPro

Mount Your GoPro

When it comes to using the GoPro while snorkeling, a common issue that users have is the shakiness of the videos or blurriness of the photos. When you are out in the water, the movement of the waves can cause this to occur. If you want to avoid this, mount your GoPro.

Here are some ways you can mount your GoPro so it can have better stability:

  • Selfie stick: Not only will a selfie stick give your GoPro more stability, but it can also allow you to get your GoPro closer to your subject without having to get physically closer yourself. You can also use it to take selfies underwater more easily. It also gives you more possibilities for angles in which you can take photos. The only downfall is that it can be a nuisance to carry around in the water. If you do get a selfie stick, make sure it is waterproof.
  • GoPro Camera Tray: This is an excellent option if you don’t want to carry around a selfie-stick. It’s incredibly stable and allows you to fix more cameras onto it at the same time and/or add accessories like diving lights to it.
  • Floatable Hand Grip: This is the cheapest and easiest solution for you to mount your GoPro.
  • Goggles: Some goggles have a built-in mount for the GoPro. This is the best option if you don’t want to have to worry about carrying anything while you snorkel. Just put the GoPro on your goggles, and you can film as you swim around. With that said, this doesn’t give you as much control over what you are shooting/the angles in which you are filming because you won’t be able to see what you are filming once you press the record button. 

Get Closer, But Not Too Close

Because the GoPro has a wide lens, it can be hard to see subjects that are far away. Therefore, if you want the best shot, you need to get closer to your subject. You need to follow the fish around and possibly dive underwater to get a little closer. 

However, don’t get too close to your subject because you’d end up with a blurry image. Keeping the subject a minimum of 12 inches away from the lens is the best option if you don’t plan to use a macro lens.

Get the Right Filters

When shooting underwater, there is an extremely high likelihood of your photos coming out blue. The way to combat this is to get an underwater filter to boost the red and orange in the light compared to the blue so you can end up with photography or video footage that looks more colorful and natural. 

The filter color you would want to get is usually red or orange, but make sure you don’t get one with too red of a tint. A filter with a shade that is slightly red will do. If the tone is too red, the water will end up looking purple. 

Another filter you can consider getting is a macro filter. A macro filter helps solve the issue with the GoPro not being able to capture subjects that are too close. You’ll be able to capture subjects that are closer to you without the image/video getting blurry.


Shoot in RAW

Consider shooting in RAW if you are familiar with processing photos. You’ll get the best underwater image quality with your GoPro this way. RAW gives you a lot more post-processing freedom with color correction. For standard still photos, this is the best option because it doesn’t work for burst mode.

Additionally, shooting in RAW gives you better control in overcorrecting for the lack of red and orange light underwater, and thus, the white balance. Although you can adjust the white balance on JPEG files as well, you’ll get better results with RAW ones. Just make sure you have the correct software, like Photoshop or Lightroom, to be able to view and edit the photos. 

If you aren’t familiar with how to process a RAW photo in a specific software like the ones mentioned above, it is probably best not to shoot in RAW until you understand how photo-processing works. In this case, stick with the standard JPEG setting.

Take Shorter Footage

It might be tempting to film your entire underwater experience, but in terms of editing, battery life, and space on your SD card, this is not feasible long term. 

Filming for 10 minutes can eat up your battery life quickly. It also takes up a ton of space on your SD card. If you end up running out of space, instead of just being able to delete a few subpar, short clips here and there, you’d have to either delete the entire 10-minute clip or go back home to download the film onto your phone/computer so that you can delete it off of your SD card. You could end up having to cut your snorkel session short. 

If you keep the clips short, you can focus on filming only the best parts of your snorkeling day. Editing will be easier for you when you decide to edit the footage later. Instead of having to go through 10 minutes of video to find the exact moment you were looking for, you can look through a series of short clips with the best footage. 

Get Creative

Another thing to think about is getting creative with the angles in which you shoot your photos/videos. Instead of just filming from the surface with your GoPro facing down, you can try leaving the GoPro in a shallow section of the ocean where there is a lot of marine life so that you can get either a video or time-lapse from that angle.

If you are willing to dive a bit, you could also choose to shoot with your GoPro looking up. You’d get a more interesting shot from the bottom looking up of the fish moving by. Another option is to dive (make sure you can hold your breath) deeper and shoot at a straight line parallel to the bottom. 

You can also take a video selfie so that you have a more engaging video and to make others feel that they are going along the journey with you. 

All these different angles can be used with photo capture as well. 

Get Rid of Water Droplets

An important thing to look out for when going snorkeling is water droplets that stick to the GoPro. If you want to take photos or videos on the surface, water droplets will make the images blurry.

Below are three ways you can get rid of the water droplets on your GoPro lens:

  1. Spit on it. This is the easiest and cheapest way (it’s free) to get rid of water droplets on glass. Once you spit on the lens, rub the saliva around, and then give your GoPro a quick rinse in the ocean or lake. After that, you should be good to go.
  2. Use a water repellant spray. If spitting on your GoPro doesn’t appeal to you, invest in a water-repellant spray that will keep the water droplets off the lens. Doing this will be more effective. 
  3. Use hydrophobic filters. These filters are the most specialized option and, thus, potentially the most expensive. Hydrophobic filters are small films that you can attach to the outside of the lens of the GoPro that help water to roll off easily, so you don’t get water drops on the lens. These filters are effective for weeks or months. 

Extend the Battery Life

The GoPro battery life is less than ideal. The battery dies even quicker when shooting videos, but there are ways to extend your battery life so that your GoPro makes it through the whole snorkel session. 

One way to extend battery life is to turn off any wireless or GPS settings. You can also reduce screen time by shutting off the GoPro when you are not using it. 

If you plan to use an extended waterproof battery, it may be necessary to test the waterproofness before taking them snorkeling and possibly risking the GoPro. 

You can also purchase extra batteries.  Then, when you need to, you can change out your uncharged battery with a charged one. 

Get a Big Enough SD Card

Once again, if you are taking videos, the storage space on the SD card of a GoPro can get used up fast. Along with not taking long videos, another way to make sure you are maximizing your SD card storage is to get an SD card with enough storage space in the first place.

Starting with an SD card that can hold a lot of storage space is best, so you are looking at either getting an SD card of 128 GB or 256 GB.

If you are the kind of person who is willing to be continually uploading and backing up your files onto something other than the GoPro, then stick with a smaller storage card.  Otherwise, go with one of the SD cards mentioned above. 

Add Lights

Adding light to your GoPro could also enhance your photo when you are close-up to your subject underwater. It doesn’t work as well as you move further away from your subject, though. You could also use them if you were to go snorkeling at night.

Yet, because underwater light could easily make the photo worse if not used correctly, it is probably best to start with something simple like a single video light. Eventually, with more experience, you can begin to add a second light, put the lights on extension arms, and upgrade to brighter lights. 

Get Your Must-Have Accessories 

There are also a couple of other accessories you may want to get:

  • Dome Port: (Amazon) A dome port moves the waterline away from the camera lens, which allows you to capture half-half shots above the water and below the water simultaneously. 
  • GoPro Floaty: (Amazon) The GoPro floaty attaches to your GoPro and enables you to go snorkeling without worrying about dropping your GoPro and having it sink out of reach.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a GoPro for Snorkeling?

Before you decide if the GoPro is for you when it comes to snorkeling, you need to weigh the pros and cons.

Pros

  • The latest models can shoot 4K60 videos. This makes for high-quality video resolution that will give you top-notch video footage.
  • The GoPro is small, which makes it easy to handle and to take with you in your luggage when you travel.
  • Most of the functions are automatic, making the GoPro simple to use. 
  • A ton of accessory options to help enhance snorkeling footage/photography.
  • Affordable in comparison to other high-quality snorkeling cameras. 

Cons

  • There are significantly cheaper action cameras on the market. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is the same.
  • The touch screen function does not work underwater.
  • The screen is small, so it is hard to see the photos/videos until you upload them onto your phone or computer.
  • There is no zoom option. Because the lens provides for a super wide-angle view, you need to get close to your subject to see details. 
  • The battery life is short. 

What Are the Best GoPros for Snorkeling?

Now that you know the pros and cons of the GoPro, it’s important to emphasize that it is still very possible to take outstanding photos and videos while using it. It is a high-quality action camera that you can use underwater. With that said, we highly recommended that you get one of the newer GoPros for snorkeling. While you can technically use earlier models of the GoPro to go snorkeling, the best GoPros for snorkeling are the GoPro Hero 7 Black and GoPro Hero 8 Black. 

GoPro Hero 7 Black

The GoPro Hero7 Black is the best option if you are on a budget. While it isn’t necessarily the cheapest model out there, it is going to give you the most bang for your buck. It also has a touchscreen, which is an upgrade from early models.  

The best part about it when it comes to snorkeling, or any water-related activity, is that it is waterproof up to 33 feet (10m) without housing. It also has 4K60 video capabilities and notable improvements over previous models. 

The main improvement is the Hypersmooth stabilization that corrects for video vibration and reduces the shakiness of the video. It has also improved sharpness, color, and saturation to get better quality photos and videos.

Additionally, unlike the GoPro Hero 7 Silver, the GoPro Hero 7 Black does not have a built-in battery. If you are going to be snorkeling for many hours, your GoPro is going to die at some point. You don’t want to have to worry about figuring out how to recharge your GoPro if it dies while you’re at a beach with no outlets. With the GoPro Hero 7 Black, you can just swap out the dead battery with a fully charged one. 

Another significant aspect of the GoPro Hero 7 is the time-lapse feature. This feature creates incredibly stable time-lapse videos that can capture a moving scene in a lot quicker of fashion. 

Instead of taking a 10-minute video of you swimming around, you can turn that 10 minutes into a few seconds of a super-fast clip that can be super interesting to watch after editing with music. It captures a lot of information in a short amount of time.

On the other hand, the time-lapse option also allows you to slow down the video, creating a slow-motion effect. 

Lastly, the GoPro Hero 7 Black has the option to shoot in RAW as well as an option for a linear field of view.

GoPro Hero 8

The GoPro Hero 8 Black (Amazon) is the best option for snorkeling. However, this is best for those who are willing to spend a little more. Like the GoPro Hero 7 Black, this GoPro also has a touchscreen and is waterproof up to 33 feet (10m) without housing. It still has 4K video and an improved HDR mode. It also can shoot in RAW, has the option for a linear field of view, and the time-lapse feature. 

What makes this GoPro different than previous ones is the built-in mount attachment that makes it easier to attach to handles.

Additionally, the HyperSmooth stabilization feature has been upgraded. There is also a new LiveBurst mode that captures 90 still images in 1.5 seconds, making it easier to capture marine life movement. 

The GoPro Hero 8 Black also has a new option for the digital lens, which provides a narrow field of view.

Lastly, the best part about the GoPro Hero 8 Black in terms of snorkeling is its automatic underwater white balance feature. 

Consider older models or refurbs

You can save money and still get great photos and videos by looking at Amazon’s leftover prior GoPro models and their used refurbished stock. Rather than rehash this here, head to our GoPro scuba article for some additional options.

Wrapping Up

Although the GoPro has its limitations like any other action camera, it’s still an extremely high-quality action camera that can allow you to take high-quality photos and even 4K video if you get the right one. Yet, despite its limitations, the best part is that it has plenty of accessories to add to it to optimize the quality of the photos and videos that you’ll want to take while snorkeling. It’s definitely worth giving the GoPro a shot next time you go out snorkeling!


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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