Underwater Portrait Shoot: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

In this video I shoot underwater portraits without getting my feet wet in another secret portrait challenge. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching Adorama TV brought to you by Adorama, the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers, and today I’m taking on another Secret Portrait Challenge. So I’ve got absolutely no idea what’s going to happen. All I know is that Sam has made me drive four hours to a farm in the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain, and something interesting is happening inside of a barn over there. So let’s go inside and see what’s going on. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, this is crazy. Okay let’s go. So this is the big surprise. Sam has booked TankSpace, which is a company that has its own mermaid tank, hand made especially for the job. It’s lovely and warm as well which is just incredible. So I’ve got this space to photograph in. It’s been designed for photography in mind because around the sides are two little holes where I can actually put some lights. So the lighting in here I guess, well I can’t light from the front because if I light from the front all we’re gonna see is a big flare from the perspex here. So it’s gonna have to be side lighting and maybe top lighting as well. So I might be able to get something above, but I’ve never lit anything like this. I’ve got absolutely no idea how this is going to work. So this should be a bit of a challenge, but I guess that’s the whole purpose. I think the first thing to do is set the lights up and let’s go from there. So I think for the lighting I’m gonna go with flash as my go-to lighting
source. Definitely the brightest ones I bought and I bought the XPLOR 600’s. So that was a, that was a good call. As far as it goes, I’m not sure I want to use the little holes. I think maybe I’d like more sort of light coming from above as my, as my first effort. It may feel more natural. It may not work with the direction of light. I don’t know, but I’ve got to start somewhere, so let’s start there. I’ve got one set up on one side. I’m gonna add the other side in as well. I’m gonna put them onto different groups so I can individually control them. I can switch it on and off and really importantly I’m going to turn the modeling light on because, well I think it’s gonna get pretty dark. So let’s pop that up there somewhere. I honestly don’t know. So to help me out today we’ve got the awesome Elle, who’s gonna be in the tank modeling for us. There really isn’t anything I can do until she’s in there. So I think Elle if you’re ready, if you want to get in the tank and I will take some test pictures and we’ll see where we go. This is gonna be exciting. I should get a camera really, that’d be a good idea. Annoyingly I’ve made right mess. I’ve made a mistake already. I put B on that side and A on that side so that’s really confusing me. So that’s B. I’ll put B on and we’ll just test B. I’m gonna guess eighth power, one eighth power. Let’s try that. I can actually see Sam reflected in the perspex. She’s monitoring the video cameras but I’m exposing for flash, so she won’t appear in the final photos. Alright let’s see how we’re doing. Wow, well I think we’re done there that’s perfect. So Elle you can’t hear anything in there and you can’t see me. So I’m gonna leave this to you for a couple of goes. So if we can have a couple of goes with you just milling around in the tank, whilst I figure out how the lights are gonna work. It’s okay until she moves around of course and then the light comes in from the wrong direction. How do you do looking? Do you just kind of vaguely know where? ‘If you give me direction, I can follow it.’ Okay. So we’re gonna go with that as your light source. So that is going to be your light direction. So I know it’s very difficult but if you can, yeah, if you can try and be facing in that kind of direction we’ll give that a whirl. It’s really hard light, there’s no
softness to this light at all. I do have some softboxes I could put on but if I’m trying to simulate real light then that looks pretty good. So what I’ve done is I’ve switched out from a standard reflector to a very small softbox. That’s going to do two things first of all it’s gonna give slightly softer shadows, hopefully, but also it’s gonna eat up a lot more light, so I may need to adjust my settings. I’m at 1/8 power at the moment, that still gives me plenty of headroom. I can still change this up to maybe a quarter power and maybe just bump my ISO up slightly as well to compensate, because I’m still at 200 ISO actually, I’m still really low. Let’s try 400 ISO and I remember you saying there was a bit of fabric. Should we throw a bit of fabric in as well? So I’m using face auto detect just to try and make sure I focus on their face, because there are a few bubbles on the tank, which is inevitable but I actually think that adds so that the feeling in here, looks really good. Let’s move the light slightly. So what I’ve done is I’ve moved the light, so it’s actually gonna come through one of the little portholes on the side. Those little portholes down there are effectively the size of the light, so it is a really small directional light source. So Elle’s got changed. She has multiple outfits apparently and now we have a mermaid. So she’s now in the tank as a
mermaid. When it comes to lighting, to give myself a bit of flexibility, I’m hoping that I can make use of the inverse square law, which basically means if I get the light further away then as Elle moves around the difference in exposure won’t be so apparent. So I did pack my really really tall light
stand. So I’m gonna try that. It’s way out of the video but it is about 20 feet high I think this stand. It’s a crazy high light stand. So if you can be facing towards
that light there. Okay so everything is in that direction. Much better. Okay that’s giving me really even exposure, top to bottom, much less hotspots. Yes it’s hard, yes it’s very shadowy in places but I think that looks very natural. As natural as you can be in a tank. So look at with the tail flipping, I don’t know if, whether you can sort of swim across. Is that something that can actually? ‘Towards that side?’ Towards that side, yeah you’ve got this, yeah. That was great we do it again. Now even whilst I’m taking the pictures, I’m thinking ahead a little bit about the post-processing. Hopefully there won’t be much and I’m honestly not expecting to do anything more than a bit of cloning. Things like scratches on the perspex, they’re kind of inevitable it’s all part and parcel of this setup. Random stray bubbles, odd hairs, that kind of thing. Most of my time is probably gonna be spent doing the floor and the back wall because there’s an obvious line that I can see that says ‘this is taken in a tank’ and if I can just hide that, just sort of smudge the two together with a bit of cloning or healing, then I think that’ll make these photos look a lot
more convincing. Although as I say that I just remembered I’ve actually photographed a mermaid which is a mythical creature. Well there we go, that is my time up here at TankSpace. It was a fantastic shoot. I’ve never done anything like it and yet it was really straightforward, with a fantastic model, great staff here and the lighting, well that just seemed to work really well as well, so I’m really pleased with these results. Now if you’ve got any questions or you’ve enjoyed this video don’t forget to leave me a comment below. Click on the bell icon to get regular notifications of all the brand new videos on Adorama TV and of course click on that subscribe button. I’m Gavin Hoey, thanks for watching.

33 Replies to “Underwater Portrait Shoot: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey”

  1. That's amazing!!! It's good you got a model who knows how to swim 🙂 You are a master at problem solving. That definitely was a challenge. I was wondering about the water affecting the color temperature of the light. Did it? If it did how did you correct?

  2. Sam deserves a big "A" plus for finding and setting this up. Phenomenal job as always on your part with the photos and editing. This would be so cool to shoot with, wish I had something like that close to me…..well done by all !!

  3. Kudos to you, Gavin, and particularly Sam for such an entertaining shoot! Loved the concept and finished product. Well done!

  4. First thing that got into my mind, how is he going to do that in his small studio hehehehehehe
    BTW Where are those aquariums in the Adorama store, cause Adorama has everything for us photographer, as you claim ??
    Excellent job and loved watching the video !!
    Thanks for sharing

  5. Oh Gavin, once again another master class 🙂 Oh, can have a word with Adorama about buying things from the UK, because the P&P (plus import duty) is a real turn off to buying these recommendations (isn't there a UK Adorama?).

  6. This wasn’t the challenge, this was THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE, with only few things under control of the photographer. Nicely done! Loved this challenge! And learnt a lot! 🙌🏼

  7. What a wonderful surprise shoot, Sam is a keeper. I really liked your approach and such magical images, nicely done Gavin and crew.

  8. I'm forever a fan, Gavin, due to your great, positive attitude and down-to-Earth approach! (And Sam… (respectfully) You look wonderful.) I've never even thought about doing this sort of shoot, and it was fascinating to see how you worked through the lighting issues. The model knew what she was doing as well, which made it go smoothly. Excellent, Gavin!

  9. Amazing images! I feel you could make any difficult challenge look easy. I always learn so much from your videos, keep them coming. You are the MASTER!

  10. Wow….she is amazing. A real pro under the water. She know how to move, how to handle the fabrics, how not to make all the faces we make underwater and look natural….
    Her work could seem easy but it is hard and was really well performed.
    I think I should replicate this work with barbies in my fish bowl. (something at my level) 🙂
    Great video.

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