I love the Boy Scout motto of Be Prepared. As a photographer that often means carrying extra batteries, a spare camera, and an extra memory card. But also knowing the location, and what conditions you’ll be working under.

Practice Ahead of Time

We just recently moved into a house with a pool, and I have been eager to shoot in it. I was asked if we could hold a baptism celebration in our pool. It is winter here in San Diego, and the pool temperature has been hovering around 55 degrees. Too cold for daily practice. Underwater photography has a few nuances that are different than above water shooting. So, no matter how prepared Id be for above water shooting, I knew I needed to practice shooting in our pool if I was going to be able to successfully shoot this event, as there are no second chances with event photography.

Match the Shooting Environment

We heated the pool up so it would be warm and ready 24 hours in advance of the event. I needed to practice with the closest approximation of environmental factors as I could hope for.


Adjust Settings

My children love to assist me as models on my test shoots. I had my girls wear clothes for the shoot, as people would be wearing clothing for the baptism. I dialed in the settings as well as I could approximate. I didn’t want my ISO to be too high, nor my depth of field to be more than necessary. When shooting underwater in the pool, in the shade, light is a precious thing. I wanted to keep my shutter speed as low as possible without causing motion blur while still keeping my subjects in focus.

1/90, F/ 5.6, ISO 100
1/90, F/ 5.6, ISO 100, There is motion blur in their feet

Review your Work

What works above water doesn’t necessarily work well below. While my initial shutter speed, that I had selected would have been high enough for an above water portrait, my daughters moved much faster underwater than I had anticipated. In the images, they look still and relaxed, but were moving at quite a rapid clip. Working out these details the day before, knowing that the baptisms would also be quick, and not repeatable, provided for a very easy, stress-free experience for everyone the next day. I didn’t have to spend any time adjusting my settings or changing anything up while we were in the pool. The day went smoothly.

The biggest bonus beyond being relaxed and prepared? I now have a wonderful gallery of images that my children take pride and ownership in. They were a big part of the success of the day.

Shot at 1/200 F/8 ISO 800
Shot at 1/200 F/8 ISO 800

NOTE: When working in a different, challenging, or new environment, get the kinks worked out the day before, so you have time to critically look at your work and fine tune your settings and angles. It is the preparation and practice that can set you apart and make your images that much stronger.