Using Filters for Underwater Video with the GoPro Hero4, Hero3 and 3+
Guide to GoPro Filters for Underwater Video
Using Filters for Underwater Video with the GoPro Hero 4, Hero3+ and Hero3
By Brent Durand
Underwater Video has been changing quickly with the HD recording capabilities of DSLR, mirrorless and some compact cameras. The GoPro Hero 4 is also a serious player due to its small size, video quality, features for underwater & topside use, low price point, and growing range of accessories. I've also been noticing a growing number of photographers building amazing portfolios with nothing but GoPro cameras.
There are many different filters available for the GoPro Hero4, Hero 3 and Hero 3+ that increase the camera’s versatility, allowing for more creative shots on land and underwater. Polar Pro makes an excellent range of glass filters for the Hero4 / Hero 3+ that we've used for the guide below (note that both cameras use the same housing). The filters snap onto the GoPro securely and easily, and the glass makes them very scratch resistant with higher optical properties than plastic. The new range of filters includes:
Red Filter: Used in blue water
Magenta Filter: Used in green water
Macro Filter: Used to shoot small subjects
Switchblade 2.0 Filter: Use Red & Macro at the same time
Polarizing Filter: Used topside to control reflected light
Neutral Density Filter: Used topside to slow the shutter speed
GoPro cameras can be used underwater as a dedicated video system with high-end lighting or as a more compact unit to put on the end of a pole or on top of a larger camera housing. The guide below presents an overview of Polar Pro filters for the Hero 3+ and their best uses.
Red filters compensate for the lack of red light in underwater scenes (since red is the first color to be lost when descending in water). This shift in available light will often confuse the camera's white balance metering, so the red filter helps deliver accurate, vibrant color in your video, as well as much-needed contrast. The Polar Pro red filter is designed to be used in tropical and blue water, optimized for use between 10 and 80 feet.
Best Use: Ambient light (no video lights). Blue water.
More Info & Purchase: PolarPro Red GoPro Filter
Magenta filters also compensate for the lack of red light but are optimized for green water between 10 and 80 feet. Not only do the filters bring color back into the scene, but they also help bring back the contrast needed for interesting video.
Best Use: Ambient light (no video lights). Green water.
More Info & Purchase: PolarPro Magenta GoPro Filter
Polar Pro’s macro filter provides 2.2x magnification for capturing video & photos of small subjects from a close distance. The GoPro Hero 3+ has a minimum focus distance of 12 inches (you must be 12” or further from your subject for sharp images). This macro filter has a focus range of 2-18 inches, which allows you to move the camera closer to the small subject to fill the frame with more detail.
Best Use 1: Shoot macro in combination with the Red filter (check out the Switchblade3+). No video lights are needed since the red filter brings the reds back into the scene. Or flip up the red filter and use only the macro filter. Or use just the red filter without the macro lens. The Switchblade is an ideal GoPro filter setup since you're prepared for anything.
Best Use 1: With video lights, add the macro filter to capture small details – just make sure the light isn’t too strong, which will overexpose the scene.
Best Use 3: Use it for macro shots topside!
More Info & Purchase: PolarPro Macro GoPro Filter
Switchblade 2.0 Filter
* Highly Recommended for Underwater Video *
Polar Pro’s Switchblade filter combines their two most popular filters (red and macro) AND allows you to use them at the same time. As discussed above, red will correct the white balance of your shots while the macro filter will allow you to shoot subjects within 12 inches and help to fill the frame with the subject. With the switchblade you can use red and macro at the same time!
Best Use 1: Shooting macro subjects without a video light.
Best Use 2: Avoid the "fisheye effect" and fill the frame with your subject, delivering more detail and excitement in the footage.
More Info & Purchase: PolarPro Switchblade 2.0 GoPro Filter
Polarizing filters are a must in any landscape photographer’s bag, so it’s natural that you should have one for using the Hero 3+ topside during dive trips. The filter reduces glare (on the water, leaves, rocks, etc) and brings a bit of saturation and contrast into bright scenes (like sky and clouds). When out on location, you can hold this filter up to your eye to preview its effect and determine whether you’ll use it.
Best Use: Topside photo and video on sunny days.
More Info & Purchase: PolarPro Polarizing GoPro Filter
Neutral Density Filter
Neutral density (ND) filters are meant for topside use and are critical for certain video/photo situations. ND filters block light, making slower shutter speeds possible. The GoPro Hero 3+ uses a fast shutter speed by default, which freezes action very well. There are times, however, when some blur creates a sense of movement and enhances the action in the frame. The ND filter can be used to achieve this. Examples include moving pavement while driving and waves splashing against rocks.
ND filters are also very useful for timelapses, where slow shutter speeds (aka “dragging the shutter”) create slight blur, resulting in a smoother timelapse.
Best Use 1: Video & photos with a static subject as well as a subject that needs to be blurred to show speed or the passage of time.
Best Use 2: Smooth video, especially for GoPro timelapses or when mounted on vibrating surfaces.
The Polar Pro filters provide many creative options for your GoPro Hero 3+ (as well as the Hero 3 and Hero 2) underwater as well as topside. They will make all the difference in your underwater video and open creative possibilities for many unique shots.
For more info and Hero4 underwater video filters, check out the product details on our sister site Bluewater Photo:
About the Author
Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and professional image-maker from California. Brent is editor of UWPG. Follow UWPG on Facebook for daily photos, tips & everything underwater photography. View more of Brent's work or follow him through www.BrentDimagery.com.
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