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A Guide to Filming Underwater in Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat Underwater Photography
Master your Underwater photography skills

We fully understand that when you’re visiting Raja Ampat, the chances are you want to film some of the adventures. This is the trip of a lifetime to the last paradise on earth – who wouldn’t want those precious memories captured on camera?

But filming underwater is a unique and challenging proposition. There’s a lot that can go wrong, so we’re here to help you prepare with a few tips and tricks before your trip! Get these right, and you’ll find that filming underwater here in Raja Ampat is incredibly rewarding. 

Main differences compared to filming on land

You’re underwater

Stating the obvious here, but it really does change everything! Shooting underwater isn’t easy. As far as we're aware, no human can breathe underwater without the aid of diving gear and a steady supply of oxygen. Alongside ocean currents, an array of alien-like wildlife and landscapes, different temperatures, and visibility, there are a lot of risks that come with shooting under the waves. Sea water is also particularly corrosive and doesn’t agree with cameras.

Light and colour behave differently down here

The biggest thing you need to adjust to when shooting underwater footage is the changes in light and colour. Down to around 5 metres just under the surface, conditions are pretty normal. It’s why your snorkel,ing GoPro footage looks acceptable, maybe even great. However, once you dive down further, you’re playing by a whole new set of rules. 

Underwater, you lose light fast and with that, you lose certain colours too. Going back to your GoPro footage, have you ever wondered why it looks so blue and green? In short, colours travel in wavelengths (demonstrated best when sunlight passes through a prism and splits into a rainbow on the other side). 

Water absorbs these different wavelengths at different depths. As you descend, you’ll notice that the colours red and yellow disappear fairly fast, while blue and green remain. This, along with the lack of sufficient light, provides a very challenging scenario for any camera operator.

A question of gear

Underwater Photography at Raja Ampat
Choose the correct camera for your needs

Whether you’re filming with a GoPro or something a little larger, the challenge of filming underwater requires specialist equipment. 


If you’re just getting started with underwater filmmaking, GoPros are an excellent camera to use. They’re relatively small and compact, waterproof, durable and easy to use. They were made specifically for activities like diving!

If you’re diving down to depths of 18m or further, you will want to invest in additional equipment:

  • Red filters can help you bring back some of the missing colours we mentioned above. When you’re deeper and stuck with only blues and greens, the red filter can help make your footage look more “natural”.

  • Underwater housing is a must. GoPros are waterproof, but only down to around 10m. You’ll want to invest in a proper underwater housing that can handle deeper depths. When buying this, make sure your filters are compatible.

  • Lights can be a nice addition if you’re wanting to take things up a notch. Of course, it’s more money and more gear to work with, but extra lighting can make a huge difference at deeper depths where you’re in much darker conditions


If you’re feeling like you’re wanting to upgrade from the GoPro and take things further, it’s certainly possible. But we urge restraint. The ability to shoot great footage underwater isn’t going to happen for you overnight. It takes time and many hours of practice before you’re comfortable in this new environment. 

For that reason, purchasing a huge, undoubtedly expensive underwater housing for your biggest, most expensive camera doesn’t really make sense. You’re probably not going to recoup that investment anytime soon because of the learning curve and honestly, some of these underwater housings are far too complicated when you’re just getting started. 

In our own experience, it's better to find some middle ground first. If you can invest in a housing and camera setup that still allows you to shoot a superior image in comparison with the GoPro but doesn’t cost the earth or over-complicate things too early, that’s the way to go. You can always upgrade in the future if things progress!

How to achieve great footage, on a budget

So, what’s the answer? The compact point and shoot market is where camera options start to tick all the boxes. For starters, the image quality is superior to GoPros and you can white balance manually. Meanwhile they’re cheaper than large mirrorless flagship cameras and they’re also far smaller and lighter, meaning the underwater housing is more affordable. 

Take a look at the Sony RX100-VII, the Canon G7X III or the Panasonic LX10. All of these tick the boxes.

Top tips for underwater filmmaking in Raja Ampat

Training dives in Raja Ampat
Master your buoyancy with SSI speciality course

Whatever your setup is going to be while filming underwater in Raja Ampat, there are a few top tips to bear in mind. Following these can help you to capture the best possible footage.

Learn to dive

Learning to dive safely is imperative – you have to be comfortable in the water and have everything come naturally to you before you can even think about operating a camera underwater. You can take your Open Water Course right here with us on Kri Island, at some of the best dive sites on earth. 

Buoyancy matters most

When you add a camera into the equation, you’re taking your mind off of other things. We’ve witnessed countless instances of divers not able to manage their buoyancy sufficiently while filming. All of their energy and focus is on the camera and as a result, they end up brushing up against corals and breaking them! This is a huge no-no and it’s so easily preventable.

Doing further courses tailored around buoyancy and underwater filmmaking is highly encouraged. It’ll greatly improve your performance, conserving more air and making your dives last longer, while helping you to remain steady and composed in the water while shooting. You’ll get smoother, better shots, and most importantly, you won’t damage the precious marine ecosystem of Raja Ampat.

Here at Soul Scuba Divers, we offer a perfect buoyancy course which can really help with this.

Position yourself lower

If you’re shooting something directly below you, it comes across as if you’re snorkeling or on the surface. It feels amateur. Instead, make use of your dive gear and immerse yourself in the 3D environment. Shooting things at eye level or even from below gives a far more interesting, dynamic shot. 

When doing this, remember to remain aware of your surroundings at all times! When you are lower, you’re in and around the reef itself, so you need to manage your buoyancy and remain vigilant.

Keep it steady

You may think that because you’re underwater, your movements will be naturally calm and fluid but that’s not the case! When you first start filming under the waves, you may come back with footage that feels very shaky and amateur. Again, this is where buoyancy and breathing techniques can help you out. 

Steadying yourself underwater and being in full control of your motions the whole time can greatly improve the stabilization of your footage. Consider purchasing a filming tray with hand grips that keep your hands off the housing itself, and perhaps even a neck strap that offers a third point of contact. 

Film in slow motion

Filming things in slower motion is useful for two reasons. One, it helps smooth out footage – slowing down in the edit can help iron any shakes or wobbles out. Second, we think there’s an ethereal, almost magical feel that slow-motion underwater footage gives us. That’s a personal, creative choice but try it out for yourself.

Shoot different shots

Just as you would on land, you want to mix things up underwater and cover different angles. Shoot the wide, beautiful landscapes, but don’t forget to make use of your focal range or get closer to subjects, filming mids and close-ups too.

Additionally, add some movement to your footage. Static shots work, but moving through an environment, potentially tracking some wildlife, can lead to really immersive, dynamic footage. 

Use your legs to move around and see what you can find but always remember to remain 100% aware of your surroundings – know what you’re swimming above and around, anticipate any upcoming obstacles and never rest your legs or body on anything!

Maintain your equipment

As we mentioned above, sea water is highly corrosive. You need to take really good care of your camera equipment while filming out here in Raja Ampat. At our dive centre, at the end of each dive you can dunk your equipment in our fresh water bucket and make sure all the salt water is properly cleared off.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on the O rings in your underwater housing – make sure they’re always clear of any sand, dust, hair and anything else you can think of. This is the most common accident we see out here…even the slightest speck of dirt can create a leak underwater!  Written by Josh Edwards Photo credit Josh Edwards

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