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8 Tips For Photographing Children Underwater | Alix Martinez

By Hanssie on March 25th 2015

Photographing children takes a special talent and a lot of energy. The children’s photographers I know are all very patient, very cheerful and very energetic at all times and when dealing with little ones, you need an abundance of all three.

Photographer Alix Martinez, a fine art children’s photographer from Connecticut, adds in another challenging element when photographing children – water. We’ve featured Alix’s fun children’s underwater sports portraits in this article here and this time, she is back with her beautiful and graceful underwater ballerina series. Alix also offers some tips for those of you looking to expand your children’s portraits to another level – below sea level, that is.

In her “Little Underwater Dancers” series, Alix’s models were girls aged 5-15 who loved to dance, loved to practice dance and were strong swimmers. Alix says, “I love photographing underwater with the children as the theme and personalities really shine through with a fine art feel. I print these images for clients up to 5 feet for their walls.



After photographing children for over two years now, Alix has some tips to share if you are considering trying it out.

1. Have Someone In The Water With You At All Times

Photographing children can be tricky, and underwater even more challenging. As safety comes first, you should always have someone in the water with you or next to the children at all times.



2. Make Sure the Costumes Are Lightweight

 These costumes you see in the series are light and airy and they did not have any weight to them. It is very important that you don’t use costumes that have heavy material so that it weighs down your clients. Again, the safety of your little models is the number one priority.

3. Give A LOT of Direct Instruction

There is a lot of instruction involved with working with children. For example, take time to go over with them how to pose underwater, the movements you want them to do and also small details like letting the water out of their cheeks so they don’t have a puffy face. Tell them to be aware of how they move their hands and feet underwater to get more graceful poses.

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4. Take A LOT Of Images

As people swim, their fingers and arms can look a bit off, so try to take many photographs until you get the perfect shot, with all the limbs and poses where you envision them to be.

5. Try to Photograph In the Early AM or Late in the Afternoon

Like being above water, the light is best at these times and also, you minimize ripples. Unless you want to capture some fun ripples, the water will be most still early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

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6. Practice Holding Your Breath For Long Periods Of Time

If you can’t hold your breath for more than a few seconds, you will miss a lot of good opportunities! Don’t forget to let all the air out to help you sink and you do not want your bubbles in the photo. It also helps to wear goggles with a nose cover or wear goggles with a nose plug.

7. Use a Fast Shutter Speed

You need to use a fast shutter speed otherwise all the movement in the water will be blurry. Shooting on Al Servo really helps and make sure you have your settings ready to go before you start taking photos with your subjects.

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8. Try a Disposable Camera

I use an Ikelite Underwater Housing to cover my Canon 5D Mark III and a 24 mm lens, but if you can’t invest in a pricey underwater housing unit yet, try using a disposable film underwater camera, a GoPro, or you can purchase a specific underwater waterproof case/bag to go over your camera. (Always do a dunk test before fully submerging your camera in the water).



To see more of Alix’s work and to keep updated on her newest projects, including a top secret underwater project with boys this summer, check out her website here.

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Linda Borrego

    I love underwater portraits. They’re so beautiful.

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  2. Dave Haynie

    Very nice!

    I used to use a water resistant P&S for underwater photography. But I noticed that Olympus makes their own underwater case for practically every model. And once that model’s replaced, the cases blow out pretty cheap. I bought the full fledged case for my E-PM1 for $199, pretty cheap. I don’t know if this is true of every camera maker, but if you have a slightly older body around, it might be a low-cost option for higher quality shooting underwater.

    I did video one year using one of those “glorified ziplock bag” type cases. It worked, but I was nervous the whole time, trusting a $2500 camcorder to such a contraption. This was a better one, and not cheap for the type, with an optical glass window for the actual lens. I have much more faith in the dedicated case.

    And of course, there’s no such thing as “waterproof”… every case is designed to not leak up to a certain pressure, and beyond that, expect leakage. Probably not a big issue for most dedicated cases, or even the water resistant “rugged” P&S models around these days. But the cheaper solutions might only be good for 10ft or so before you’re at risk.

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  3. Graham Curran

    Bourt, LOL.

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  4. Tyler Hackerott

    Wow, I didn’t think photography underwater could look so cool.

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  5. Brandon Dewey

    cool images

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  6. Graham Curran

    Great pix.

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  7. Tanya Goodall Smith

    I met Alix last summer at Click Away and loved her work. She does some incredible children’s fashion photography above water, too ;) Great tips.

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